Trump declares national emergency to build border wall

Matt Saintsing
February 15, 2019 - 12:50 pm

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday over the southern border, looking to fund a wall that, so far, Congress has denied.

The announcement, made in the Rose Garden, comes after weeks of negotiations between the White House and Congressional leaders failed to provide Trump what he sees as an adequate response to a growing national security “crisis” at the border. 

“The order is signed,” said Trump. “We will have a national emergency.” 

“We want to stop drugs from coming into our country, we want to stop criminals and gangs from entering our country,” he added. 

Photo by Chris Kleponis / Sipa USA

By declaring a national emergency, a move that will undoubtedly bring multiple lawsuits challenging its legitimacy, Trump will be able to redirect about $3.6 billion set aside for military projects to build the wall. 

Some of those projects include construction at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the first place combat casualties are sent following severe injuries, and new family housing at installations around the world. 

Congress passed legislation a day before Trump’s announcement providing the administration with $1.375 billion for new fencing. All told, he’ll have around $8 billion by moving around billions from other government agencies through regular budgetary options, which do not require a national emergency.

Trump initially was looking for $5.7 billion from Congress. 

The move was met by resistance by top Democrats. 

“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said in a joint statement. 

“The president is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”

Republicans, on the other hand, praised the move as decisive and necessary given “obstruction” by Democrats.

“President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrat’s decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said shortly after the announcement. 

“I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our homeland security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations.” 

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), an Iraq War veteran who serves on the Armed Service Committee, called the national emergency “fake,” and warned the move could impact military readiness. 

“We authorize billions of dollars to improve our bases every year,” he said. “That money is to build facilities to recruit, train and retain the world’s best military."

Hours after Trump's announcement, the Pentagon released a statement on the national emergency citing federal laws justifying the federal use of the armed forces in support of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DoD also said "involuntary activation" of the Ready Reserve is authorized, "which includes members who, when mobilized, perform a federal mission at the direction of the Secretary of Defense." 

Additionally, the military could provide "counterdrug support" including the "construction of roads, fences, and lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries," the statement reads, adding the declaration of a national emergency allows the Secretary of Defense to redirect military construction funding to build "border barriers"if necessary. 

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