President Trump has circumvented Congress and declared a national emergency, hoping to divert billions from the military to his long-desired border wall.
President Trump formally pronounced the U.S.-Mexico border in a state of national emergency Friday.
Widely regarded as an attempt to circumvent Congress, the announcement followed Trump’s decision to sign off on a border security deal that’d keep the federal government open for the foreseeable future. While Democrats were willing to concede over a billion dollars for improved fencing along the U.S.-Mexico frontier, their offer fell drastically short of Trump’s expectations.
Declaring a national emergency would allow the president to redirect finances earmarked for other projects to a fence of dubious efficacy.
But Trump’s announcement, televised from the Rose Garden, highlighted the existential threat illegal immigrants pose to the United States. He claims a bigger, better wall will keep out illegals along with drugs and Mexican cartels.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” Trump said. “It’s an invasion.
“We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
In his speech, Trump anticipated challenges from the courts, liberal politicians and advocacy organizations.
And he was right: critics have already come out en masse, condemning the maneuver as anything but democratic. Some issued statements in the hours and minutes leading up to the speech.
Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce purportedly tried to talk Trump out of it, calling the sweeping use of executive authority “dangerous precedent.”
“Instead, we urge the president and members of Congress of both parties to negotiate and find common ground on immigration and border security,” COC President and CEO Tom Donohue said. “The declaration of national emergency in this instance will create a dangerous precedent that erodes the very system of government that has served us so well for over 200 years.”
But Trump also pointed to precedent, saying his predecessors have signed dozens of similar documents without controversy.
.@PressSec: President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action—including a national emergency—to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 14, 2019
“It’s been signed by other presidents [and] there’s rarely been a problem. They sign it. Nobody cares for far less in many cases,” Trump said. “We’re talking about an invasion of our country with durgs and human traffickers and all types of criminals and gangs.”
The president reiterated claims he made in Texas: that the construction of improved border barriers in El Paso reduced the city’s crime rate.
That statement has been challenged by local politicians and media fact checkers, who were quick to point out that El Paso’s crime rate began falling a decade before a wall was ever erected.
Nevertheless, Trump’s declaration allows him to divert $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and another $600 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Combined with the $1.375 billion authorized for construction by Congress, the $8 billion total towers over the $5.7 billion lawmakers had refused to give him. And that, say Democrats, is evidence of malicious intent.
“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a joint statement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“The president is not above the law,” they said. “The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”
House freshman and preferred conservative scapegoat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said she’s planning to introduce a resolution along with Rep. Joaquin Castro to prevent the emergency declaration from taking effect.