Image Courtesy of Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0
On February 15, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in order to gain access to the billions of dollars in border security funding that Congress denied him. Earlier in February, negotiations between Congress and President Trump appeared to have finally come to a close when Congress announced an “agreement in principle” that would serve to stop any further government shutdowns that were hurting government employees. However, Trump has taken to an entirely new strategy to get his way by declaring a national emergency where there is none.
Trump expressed early disappointment at the deal. The president, who initially requested $5.7 billion dollars for border funding, holds an unbudging resolve on his “wall” and backwards immigration policy which has been hurting immigrants, federal employees, and now the country as a whole. Although he will already receive approximately $1.4 billion dollars allocated to establishing physical barriers along the United States border, he is unsatisfied. Many members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, are criticizing the declaration of a national emergency for what it is: an unconstitutional abuse of authority.
The move that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accurately described as a “power grab” opens the door for presidential overreach, meaning an overstepping of the limits of presidential power put in place by the United States’ Constitution, Congress, and the Supreme Court. Trump himself acknowledged in his speech that he would almost definitely be sued and taken to the United States’ Supreme Court for this decision. Trump is aware that his actions were unconstitutional. When presidents are able to override congressional decisions for nothing more than their own personal gain, we inch our way farther from a democratic system.
On February 25, a letter from fifty former national security officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, was signed stating that Trump was unjustified in calling for a national emergency. In addition to the $1.4 billion dollars allocated to him through the deal, Trump now has access to $3.6 billion dollars from the nation’s military construction program, as well as another three or so billion from other areas of government spending. In sum, Trump has about $8 billion dollars under his control to allocate to his wall.
These wall “negotiations” are continuing to hurt the nation as a whole. The initial government shutdown from Trump’s push for a wall saw 800,000 federal employees furloughed or left to work without pay. In addition to causing an estimated $11 billion in economic fallout, workers were left without necessary pay for an extended period of time and faced financial strain as a result. However, the President and Congress continued to get paid throughout the shutdown. High level politicians’ inability to reach a compromise ended up causing more harm to everyday workers than to the politicians themselves. The shutdown also saw the hindering of necessary FDA food safety inspections and long term damage to many national parks that did not receive proper supervision and maintenance during the shutdown.
By boasting the shutdown as the exclusive fault of the Democrats, Trump has turned his push for a border wall into his own chess game to get his way. Trump has made it clear that his interests lie in boasting his own successes rather than in the good of the American people.
Trump has been using fear-mongering tactics to get his way on the deal. In order to rally support for his impractical border security funding, Trump posted a tweet presenting wildly fabricated statistics about undocumented immigrants and their cost to the United States government. He stated that the cost of undocumented immigrants on the economy was upwards of $18 billion dollars in 2019 alone. He also stated that there are currently 25 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
In his speech declaring a national emergency, Trump’s claims directly contradicted the real reported statistics. He claimed that the number of undocumented immigrants, drug trafficking and crime were all on the rise. As the actual number of undocumented immigrants is down, it’s hard to see where Trump gets his basis of declaring a national emergency. It’s obvious that Trump’s concern isn’t with the wall, but from making sure the nation knows that he “won” the negotiations.