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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday approved the use of $3.6 billion in funding from military construction projects to build 175 miles of President Donald Trump's wall along the Mexican border.

Esper's notifications come almost seven months after Trump declared a national emergency on February 15 in order to obtain roughly $8 billion to build his long-promised wall, which he has claimed will prevent irregular immigration along the southern border.

"It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that President Trump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build", said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of NY.

"It is a slap in the face to the members of the Armed Forces who serve our country that President Trump is willing to cannibalize already allocated military funding to boost his own ego and for a wall he promised Mexico would pay to build", Chuck Schumer said of the option.

The White House's proposed $718 billion Defense Department budget for fiscal year 2020 included $3.6 billion in an emergency fund to backfill money taken from 2019 construction projects for the wall as well as an additional $3.6 billion marked for potential new construction at the southern border.

Lieutenant General Andrew Poppas, director of operations at the Joint Staff, said he expected that building the wall would reduce the number of troops needed on the border.

Though it was not immediately clear which military construction projects would be put on hold, the move could jeopardize the construction of command and control, drone and cyber projects as well as training facilities in the USA and overseas.

Esper's decision fuels what has been a persistent controversy between the Trump administration and Congress over immigration policies and the funding of the border wall.

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The $3.6 billion includes two roughly equal pools of funds - overseas construction projects and projects planned for bases inside the United States and its territories.

She said she told Esper that Trump was negating the constitutional principle of separation of powers, the aide said.

As Schumer noted, throughout the course of his 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump had vowed to make Mexico pay for the construction of his border wall.

However, only about half of the projects listed met the criteria that Defense Department officials said they were considering for funding.

There are now some 5,500 active duty troops on the border in addition to some 2,000 National Guard forces.

The American Civil Liberties Union promised to seek a court order to block "the president's abuse of emergency powers to secure funds for a wall Congress denied".

However, in the months since his election victory, it has become abundantly clear that it is not Mexico that will be paying for the wall's construction, but the USA and its taxpayers.

  • Sonia Alvarado