The National Emergency That’s … Not Actually An Emergency?
By Sejal Sangani
The United States is currently in a state of national emergency, declared by Trump on February 15th.
The government was shut down from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 because Congress and President Trump were unable to agree on a spending bill for the 2019 fiscal year. Trump demanded $5.7 billion in funding, but Congress passed a series of bills which all failed to satisfy him. The government reopened after the longest shutdown in history with a three-week stopgap bill, meaning that negotiations would have to conclude in agreement after this time period to avert another shutdown. Ultimately, Trump signed a spending bill without border wall funding, but declared a national emergency to build the wall. National emergencies grant the president powers such as shutting down electronic communications within the US, freezing citizens’ bank accounts, or deploying troops and using military funding to quell domestic unrest. Sparking immense controversy, Trump faces several lawsuits for this decision, from sixteen states as well as organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. There has also been a motion from Congressional leaders about a bill that would terminate the national emergency. That being said, this bill will almost certainly be vetoed by Trump if passed by Congress.
Personally, I disagree with the belief that 1) a national emergency should have been called to build a border wall and 2) a border wall is necessary in the first place. Here’s why:
The first thing is, the nation isn’t really … in a state of emergency. Trump cites an “invasion” crisis at the Mexican-American border, but we aren’t seeing any lasting negative impacts from these immigrants — we’re not currently at war or in severe turmoil because of them. There’s not really a crisis at all. Further, Pew Research Center notes that the number of undocumented immigrants living in the US has actually declined in the past years, specifically looking to a decrease in illegal border-crossing from Mexico. If anything, we should be in less of a “national emergency” than we were in a decade ago. Trump himself states, “I didn’t need to do this.” Well, then, Donald, is it really an emergency?
Second, I have a problem with the notion of a border wall itself. First, let’s look at the facts. Several empirics prove that the border wall will:
- eliminate biodiversity, causing immense species loss. It also could trigger natural disasters such as flooding and debris on both sides of the wall.
- precipitate a trade war— several allies who oppose the wall (i.e. Mexico) could retaliate by increasing taxes on goods.
- embolden human trafficking and drug cartels
- collapse economic growth — building the border wall is detrimental to our domestic economy, despite what Trump may think.
- destroy US foreign credibility. This policy is unpopular among our allies and global powers; international ratings of the US have declined to just 22% confidence in Trump to do the right thing following his announcement of a border wall plan.
Also, it’s no secret or accident that this wall is meant to target immigrants and people of color — a blatantly racist move on Trump’s part. It’s literally built to devastate an immigration system that brings diversity and racial differences to the US — attempting to preclude that is just a reminder to immigrants, especially Latinx communities, that they’re unwelcome. Further, the notion of a border wall rests upon the idea that immigrants bring instability drugs, crime, and rape, which is untrue. Many families are simply seeking better lives for themselves and their children, fleeing from persecution in their home countries, hoping to settle somewhere with opportunity, acceptance, and happiness.
What’s the emergency in that?