All that’s not right with Trump’s national emergency declaration, explained

Trump declared a national emergency to acquire more funding for his 2016 campaign promise—a concrete border wall in the south.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for his proposed border wall.

Going live from the Rose Garden at the White House, Trump said he will confront the “national security crisis” on US’ southern border, which the country shares with Mexico.

“We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from our southern border,” he added. “We are talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, human traffickers, and all types of criminals and gangs.”

He criticised Democrats who, he says, are lying that a majority of drug trafficking is done through official entry ports. He further said drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl killed 70,000 Americans last year.

Many have accused Trump of abusing his executive privilege and setting a dangerous precedent for future political deadlocks.

Previous deal on border security

Trump’s announcement is a reaction to the bipartisan deal on border security struck on Tuesday that averted a government shutdown.

Both, Republicans and Democrats decided that US border security will be funded with $1.4 billion and 55 miles (88 km) of the southern border will be fenced with existing security designs, like metal slats.

This deal also dictates that beds in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centres will be reduced from 49,057 to 40,250; this is an effort to curb the persecution of undocumented immigrants.

This bipartisan proposal looks different from Trump’s original demand for $5.7 billion in funds and a 215-mile (346-km) concrete wall.

Expressing his disappointment over the deal, he had said, “I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick… I’m adding things to it, and when you add whatever I have to add, it’s all going to happen where we’re going to build a beautiful, big, strong, wall.”

At the time, Trump had not specified how he was planning on infusing cash into border security.

What can Trump do in a national emergency?

Declaring a national emergency is an ‘executive action’ that allows a US President to circumvent Congress and funnel money into the construction of a wall at his discretion.

In this specific case, Trump can potentially collect $8 billion to fund border security: $1.375 billion from the spending Bill, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon’s drug interdiction programme, $3.5 billion from the military construction budget, and $600 million from Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund.

Backlash and legal action

The building of a concrete wall between Texas and Mexico is one of Trump’s most controversial campaign promises; and now, his method of funding it has also been harshly critiqued.

Interim Executive Director of the Truman Center for National Policy, Bishop Garrison told ABC News, “When you talk about border crossings, you’re talking about historically low numbers right now, lower than we’ve seen in quite sometime.”

Garrison also said that if drug trafficking across the border was truly a national emergency, the administration should have taken action much before the parties started gearing up for the 2020 elections. To him, Trump’s action is politically motivated.

Previous Presidents’ use of executive actions has been unchallenged because they were able to definitively prove an issue needed an immediate resolution that Congress was unable to deliver. However, the Trump administration will likely encounter legal hurdles, especially because Congress has the power of the purse.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “Trump’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation.”

Pelosi also called Trump’s move a “power grab” that is in violation of the boundaries of the law.

New York Attorney General Letitia James warned that declaring a national emergency without legitimate cause will trigger a Constitutional crisis; she vowed to challenge Trump with “every legal tool at our disposal”. California is also planning to file a lawsuit.

Some Republican senators, like Lindsey Graham, supported Trump. Graham tweeted, “I stand firmly behind President Trump’s decision to use executive powers”.

Other conservative leaders vocalised concern, like Republican Congressman Greg Walden who said, “I am deeply concerned about the precedent that this action sets.”

Impact on Indians

While the national emergency declaration doesn’t have an immediate impact on Indians, American political discourse on immigration might. The debate on immigration to the US has become increasingly tinged with partisanship sentiment that leaves little room for nuance.

Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius

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