Trump declares national emergency to help fund border wall


photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

Andrew Brown and Samuel Oladejo

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, Feb. 15 in order to fund a southern border wall for the United States.

The national emergency came after Trump declared a humanitarian crisis Jan. 8 due to the illegal immigration issue at the southern border and the subsequent debate over the funding of a border wall.

“This is a humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said during his Oval Office address on Jan. 8. “Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States – a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.”

A humanitarian crisis is defined as an event or events that threaten the health, safety or well-being of a community. One of the first pieces of this situation to be pulled off and scrutinized was if the president could even declare the humanitarian crisis over the border wall dispute and government shutdown.

“[Adam] Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, insists that Trump ‘does not have the power to execute’ this order…this president does not have the power to declare an emergency and build a multibillion dollar wall on the border,” Jonathan Turley, Opinion Contributor for The Hill newspaper, said. “The problem is Trump does have that power because Congress gave it to him.”

Trump surprised his critics on Jan. 25 by signing a bill to reopen the government for three weeks in an effort to reach a deal with the Democrats who were against his shutdown of the government. The debate between Democrats and Republicans continued up until the end of the three weeks. On Feb. 15, Trump signed Congress-approved legislation that would fund the government and its federal employees through Sep. 30, 2019, preventing a new shutdown. However, since there was still a lack of funding for the border wall, Trump declared a national emergency prior to signing the legislation.

“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 in a televised statement. “It’s an invasion. We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”

The National Emergencies Act, passed by Congress in 1976, allows the president to call a national emergency whenever he deems it appropriate. Because it does not actually define what a national emergency is, a president may declare one whenever he sees fit. The act grants the president specialized legislation which may come with additional funding. Trump’s declaration has caused controversy over whether it is too strong a power to yield.

“Whatever you think of this argument, it points to the larger and growing hole in our Constitution,” Michael Brendan Dougherty said in a National Review article. “Through the legal fiction of an emergency, the old rules that governed America, and ensured some democratic check on executive power, are sidelined.”

Sixteen states, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit against Trump the following Monday. The attorneys general suing along with Becerra come from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

“We’re going to try to halt the President from violating the Constitution, the separation of powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated by Congress, lawfully,” Becerra said.

Despite the opposition, there are Americans still in support of building a southern border wall but not using a national emergency to get it.

“I, too, want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas,” Republican Sen. Rand Paul said. “But how we do things matters.”

Trump’s main claim for the wall and national emergency in his declaration was not isolation from Mexico but protection of Americans.

“Wealthy politicians…don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside,” Trump said.