SCOTUS vacates lower court ruling against border wall funding

President Joe Biden entered office with a clear mission to repeal his predecessor’s immigration policies, issuing an executive order overturning an order by former President Donald Trump that redirected some Defense Department money toward the construction of a border wall.

Although the Trump order had been challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated those lower rulings and remanded the case back to the circuit court for reconsideration.

“Appropriated but unobligated funds”

According to reports, the nation’s highest court cited “changed circumstances” as the reason for its ruling.

Those circumstances appear to involve the fact that Biden has canceled all remaining border wall construction projects and has started returning the diverted defense funds, which has rendered the case moot.

As SCOTUSblog explained on Monday, the case of Biden v. Sierra Club decision was one of several orders handed down upon the beginning of a new term.

The case dealt with whether the Sierra Club environmentalist group had a “cognizable cause of action” to challenge the “reprioritizing of appropriated but unobligated funds” as well as whether statutory authorities were exceeded by diverting those funds toward border wall construction in accordance with Trump’s emergency declaration.

In its collection of orders, the court stated: “The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with instructions to direct the District Court to vacate its judgments.”

“What further proceedings are necessary”

The order further proclaimed that the district court “should consider what further proceedings are necessary and appropriate in light of the changed circumstances in this case.”

Both the district and appeals court ruled in favor of the legal challenge posed by the Sierra Club and American Civil Liberties Union against the initial diversion of roughly $3.6 billion in military funds.

The Supreme Court’s order notably sets things up for possible future legal challenges, such as demands from environmentalist groups that the Biden administration remediates any damage caused by the initial construction of the border wall during the Trump administration.

Furthermore, the current White House could theoretically find itself defending the Trump-era orders in an effort to guard against undue limitations to executive powers.

Although the case itself might be moot, the Supreme Court order is essentially keeping the issue alive — at least for now.

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