After decades of neglect, political grandstanding, phony promises, and absolutely nothing happening to improve the crisis on the American-Mexican border, President Trump this week declared a national emergency in order to finally take meaningful steps to continue construction of the much-needed border wall.
This action, of course, raises a number of important questions, not the least of which is: “What the frick took so long?”
This border has been in an undeclared state of emergency for over a generation. We need not here recapitulate at much length all the problems that flood across that border and into this country from Central and South America, and the terrible costs imposed on us, and in particular on our poorest, most vulnerable communities (as we have already done so at length in this recent post). It is sufficient to reiterate that the United States of America is unique among developed nations in that only we share a land border with an undeveloped, almost totally lawless region. As we have documented before, seventeen of the twenty most dangerous countries in the world are south of the United States, along with forty-five of the fifty most dangerous cities in the world. And the chief exports of those countries are poverty, crime, and narcotics, which flow directly into our cities, overrunning our social services, crowding Americans out of jobs, keeping them in poverty and privation, and fueling our gang and drug culture that has destroyed our cities and schools, and claimed so many lives. This is the definition of a national emergency. The only scandal is that it was not declared long ago.
But the same Democrats, who until recently agreed with the need to secure our border and combat illegal immigration, and who complained just a few months ago – correctly – that we have an ongoing humanitarian “crisis” at the border, with all sorts of charges about holding centers being overcrowded and not enough judges and lawyers to process the influx of migrants, now object to the border “crisis” being called an “emergency.”
Really? We’re now going to debate whether a “crisis” qualifies as an “emergency”?
I don’t like to digress into semantical arguments, but I would observe that Google’s online dictionary lists “crisis” as the first synonym for “emergency.” So while liberals argue that “this can’t be an emergency because it’s been going on for years,” it is important to remember that an emergency doesn’t necessarily mean “sudden,” but it should always be understood to mean “urgent.” And if the problems caused by open borders, illegal immigration, and the free flow of drugs into this country do not qualify as “urgent,” then that word has no meaning.
If anything, Trump’s invocation of a national emergency is unusual only because it is so rare for a president to use this power to address an actual emergency of national interest! Presidents have declared national emergencies fifty-nine times since the National Emergencies Act was enacted in 1978 (not including Trump’s declaration), and nobody seemed to care about, or even notice any of those, even though thirty-one of them are still in effect today! Many of the still active ones date back to the 1990s and early 2000s, and one even dates back all the way to 1979! Show me a single one of those that was challenged in the courts by the ACLU as an affront to the Constitution.
President Obama declared national emergencies to unilaterally aid Libya, Yemen, the Ukraine, Burundi, Somalia, Venezuela, South Sudan, and Central Africa, and that all passed constitutional muster, but President Trump tries to aid the United States, and now he’s a traitor. It was fine when President Obama used executive orders to impose gun control on law-abiding citizens, but it’s a subversion of our Constitution for President Trump to use his executive authority to impose border control on lawless non-citizens. I see.
It’s nice of the Left to at least feign an interest in bona fide constitutional interpretation for a change (I thought it was a living document?), but the president is not compromising a single constitutional or civil liberty through his perfectly legal, and congressionally authorized actions. To be sure, any analysis of a presidential invocation of emergency powers should consider not only the emergency sought to be remedied, but also the power the president intends to use. But here, Trump isn’t quartering soldiers in private homes, or conscripting people into the military, or seizing weapons, or rationing food, or imposing curfews, or relegating an entire race of Americans to internment camps like a certain Democratic president did who appears on our money.
Trump’s declaration merely permits him take government funds that are already earmarked for specifically stated purposes, and applying those funds for a project consistent with those purposes: 1) $600 million from a Treasury Department fund of forfeited money; 2) $2.5 billion from a Department of Defense fund for counter-drug activities (that seems really appropriate here!); and 3) $3.6 billion from a military construction fund. As it is, our military regularly uses its budget to build all sorts of defenses, including walls, in other countries to defend their borders and their people. But Trump, the commander-in-chief of the military, applies a tiny fraction of our military construction budget to construct a wall to defend our border, which is the military’s primary responsibility (!), and all of a sudden the sky is falling as democracy itself crumbles before our very eyes?
It’s good to debate important issues, and there is perhaps no issue more important than that which concerns the government’s exercise of authority. We conservatives can certainly relate to that. But debates need to be informed with a familiarity of the relevant law and precedent, and with an eye always towards common sense. Trump’s executive action is in no way a threat to our democracy. But voicing uninformed opinions on important issues, and reflexively opposing this president at every turn just because one wants to see him fail at whatever cost, absolutely is.