US President Joe Biden’s administration filed a motion on Monday asking the US Supreme Court to cancel upcoming oral arguments for two appeals filed by former president Donald Trump concerning the southern border wall and the “remain in Mexico” asylum policy.
The motion follows a proclamation issued by Biden on his first day in office ordering a pause on “each construction project on the southern border wall” in order to undergo an “assessment of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to construct the wall.” Biden also commented that the border wall is “not a serious policy solution,” and is “a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
The two cases on the Supreme Court docket come as appeals by Trump from two recent decisions by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The first case, Sierra Club v. Trump, is scheduled for oral argument on February 22. The plaintiffs argue that Trump’s decision to divert military funds toward the wall construction is an unconstitutional infringement on Congress’ authority. While they won in district court, the Supreme Court granted a stay of that court’s order to cease construction, pending appeal proceedings. The plaintiffs sought to lift the stay but were unsuccessful.
The Biden administration is also seeking to cancel the oral arguments for Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, scheduled for March 1. That case challenges the legality of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, known as the “remain in Mexico” asylum policy. The program took effect in 2019 and has kept tens of thousands of prospective immigrants waiting on the Mexican side of the southern border while their asylum claims process. However, like the border wall, the case may become moot because of the Biden administration’s policy. On the same day that Biden’s proclamation was released, the Department of Homeland Security published a statement announcing a suspension on enrollment into the MPP, potentially rendering Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab moot.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the plaintiffs in both cases, voiced its support of Biden’s stance regarding the border wall in a recent press release, calling the motions to cancel the arguments a “good start.” However, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, Dror Ladin, commented, “just hitting the brakes isn’t enough. Trump’s wall devastated border communities, the environment, and tribal sites. … It’s time for the Biden administration to step up for border communities, and commit to mitigating environmental damage and tearing down the wall.”