"I didn't need to do this," Trump said in his announcement (no, you didn't, agree millions of people) after signing a spending bill to keep the government running. "But I'd rather do it much faster." In the deal, he got about $1.3 billion (around £1 billion) for a border fence, which is far from his initial demand for a $5 billion (£3.8 billion) wall. That's why he declared a "national emergency" as a last-ditch effort, a move that has drawn bipartisan condemnation and will very likely face legal challenges.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been checkmating Trump throughout the entire duration of this saga, called the decision an "unlawful" "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." His actions, she said, violate Congress' power of the purse, or the ability to tax and spend public money for the federal government.
There are differing views on the legality of Trump declaring a national emergency. "Judging President Trump's emergency declaration is all about perspective," Peter Margulies, a law professor at the Roger Williams University School of Law, told Vox. "The law says that the president can take funds from current projects if the situation 'requires' the use of U.S. armed forces. The entry of unarmed Central American refugees — many of them women and children — at the southern border doesn’t 'require' a military response." Since the National Emergency Act of 1976 was signed into law, 58 emergencies have been declared, 31 of which are still in effect.
Pelosi warned Republicans that a future Democratic president could declare gun violence a national emergency if they wanted to. While she said she's not advocating that Democrats do so, she said Trump is setting a precedent that should make Republicans nervous.
"If the president can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people," she said on Thursday. "You want to talk about a national emergency? Let's talk about today," she said, referring to February 14, 2019, the day that marked one year since the school shooting in Parkland, FL, where 17 people were killed.
"You want to talk about a national emergency? Let's talk about today. The one year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That's a national emergency. Why don't you declare that emergency, Mr. President? ... A Democratic president could." pic.twitter.com/NDvhb339aT— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 14, 2019
Democratic presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren joined Pelosi in calling attention to the actual emergencies the U.S. is facing: the family separation crisis created by Trump, the potentially catastrophic outcome if we don't deal with climate change, the opioid crisis, and the epidemic of mass shootings.
Let's be clear on this: The only emergency at our border is the humanitarian one Trump created himself, by demonizing and ripping apart families. This manufactured crisis is racist, wasteful, and an outrageous abuse of power from someone too reckless and hateful to hold it.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 15, 2019
Declaring a national emergency over this President's vanity project is ridiculous. We don't need a wall. Instead, we should address the actual emergencies facing our country — everything from gun violence to the opioid crisis.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
Gun violence is an emergency.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 14, 2019
Climate change is an emergency.
Our country's opioid epidemic is an emergency.
Donald Trump's ridiculous wall is not an emergency.
On the other hand, there is zero evidence of the widespread chaos on the souther border that Trump describes. Immigrants statistically commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. As for the "pouring in" of drugs and trafficked people Trump described in cartoonish, graphic detail, a wall wouldn't do much to deter either as both are overwhelmingly brought in through official points of entry.
But, unfortunately, if national politics were the "guy checking out another girl" meme, the "girlfriend" would be "issues we actually need to take care of, ASAP" and the "other girl" would be "whatever the GOP is getting paid to peddle on this particular day."
"There is no national security emergency at our southern border," Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, wrote in a statement provided to Refinery29. "The crisis we face is a humanitarian one that will not be solved by a wall, but with thoughtful, comprehensive immigration reform. Trump's wall has never been about national security. It is a political applause line he uses to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment. Now we must stand together again to stop the President's unconstitutional actions and prevent him from undermining our rule of law."