President Trump has declared a national emergency.
This is a thing presidents can do. And they’ve been doing it since 1979 when President Carter responded to a hostage situation in Iran by declaring a national emergency. We’ve spent four decades in perpetual emergency mode. With Trump’s announcement, this makes American subject to 33 concurrent national emergencies, all of which grant the president a bunch of extra (and surprising!) powers, and encourage the government to start clawing back rights and privileges from the American people.
The declaration on the White House website is at least mostly coherent. It says there’s a national security/humanitarian crisis at the southern border because, um, immigrants are still trying to migrate to the United States.
The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency. The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics. The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch’s exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years. In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending. If not detained, such aliens are often released into the country and are often difficult to remove from the United States because they fail to appear for hearings, do not comply with orders of removal, or are otherwise difficult to locate.
This statement may be coherent, but it’s also mostly untrue. Southern border apprehensions are down to a quarter of the peak they reached in 2000. There have been increases in recent years of families seeking entry, but how that translates to a national security emergency is anyone’s guess. The claim that immigrants blow off hearings is completely false. The DOJ’s own data shows that 60-75% of non-detained immigrants show up for court appearances.
The other fudged claim — somewhat muddied in the White House statement but somehow made more clear during the President’s rambling press conference — is the assertion that a porous border without The Wall/Fence is allowing drugs and trafficked humans to come pouring into the United States. The DEA has repeatedly stated that most drugs make their way into the US through legal points of entry. Why? Because it’s way more efficient to move drugs with large vehicles, rather than a handful of mules walking through unguarded areas.
President Trump completely undercut his own national emergency declaration during his Rose Garden press conference. Trump said he didn’t actually need to declare an emergency to secure border wall funds, but thought this would be faster than the usual appropriations process.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
We are subject to a national emergency that isn’t an emergency, based on assumptions made by a president who refuses to listen to the government agencies he’s involving in his manufactured crisis. On top of that, this is only the second declared national emergency that actively involves the military. This should be of great concern to all Americans, including Trump supporters, as it involves the siphoning of resources usually deployed elsewhere in the world and directs them towards a domestic crisis that isn’t actually a crisis.
The only other national emergency to involve the US military was the one George W. Bush issued three days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. We’ve all witnessed the explosive expansion of government power flowing from this declaration and other Congressional responses to the terrorist attacks. Here we are with no attacks, living in an era of unprecedented safety, and the president of the country has just invoked expansive powers to deal with an immigration influx that has been trending downward for nearly two decades.