In the News: Trump’s Border Wall
A rallying cry during the 2016 Presidential Election, Trump’s border wall is well known across American households. Since his inauguration, the president has sought critical funding – billions of dollars – in order to construct his US-Mexico border wall. Yet, every effort thus far has fallen flat, failing to provide adequate capital for the president’s signature undertaking. In his fight, the president has managed to sow chaos throughout America, even sparking a historically-long government shutdown.
The US-Mexico border wall will likely cost many billions of dollars to create. Certainly, the true sum would likely be much higher than the $5.7 billion that Trump seeks currently. In fact, a previous government report estimated the true building cost would likely stretch above $20 billion, not including yearly maintenance fees. Manning the wall would also be a significant, and expensive, challenge. Such truths call into question the true feasibility of Trump’s border wall, yet the president appears determined to charge forward despite potential limitations.
Now, the president has escalated the fight over his border wall. After Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill that did not provide his demanded $5.7 billion, Trump declared a national emergency in order to divert military funding. This concerning action has already seen multiple challenges, with more on the horizon.
This article reviews the president’s decision to declare a national emergency, as well as those people, organizations, and entities fighting this action. We will also review why the president’s decision to declare a national emergency concerns many Americans.
Congressional Deal Leaves Out Border Wall Funding
After the end of Trump’s historic government shutdown, a bicameral,* bipartisan** committee was created to handle the task of brokering a funding compromise. The shutdown had hurt both the U.S. economy and its people, and Congress was determined to find a way forward.
While the final deal to fund the federal government did allocate $1.4 billion for the construction of physical barriers at the border, it did not provide anywhere near Trump’s requested funding. Rather than veto the measure, on February 14 the president signed the deal and announced his unilateral decision to issue a national emergency.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s press secretary, stated that Trump’s actions would “stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.”
*Bicameral means “two chambers” – thus, both chambers of Congress, the House and the Senate, contributed to the deal.
**Bipartisan means “two parties” – both Democrats and Republicans contributed to this fiscal compromise.
President Parts with Precedent, Declares Border Wall “Emergency”
Previous presidents have certainly utilized emergency powers. In fact, since the passing of the National Emergencies Act of 1976, presidents have invoked such powers nearly five-dozen times. Yet, no president has ever taken Trump’s path, defying both Congress and the Constitution. According to The New York Times, Trump’s use of emergency powers is especially concerning because it sidesteps Congress’s power of the purse, grabbing funding despite a clear legislative rejection.
Yet, on February 15, the president chose his course, declaring a national emergency to prevent an “invasion of drugs and criminals.” Yet, in the same announcement, the president contradicted himself and his stated emergency, saying “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” Such verbiage will likely be utilized by challengers to undermine the president’s argument and justification for use of sweeping emergency powers.
Below we discuss several current challenges to Trump’s national emergency, including lawsuits and Congressional measures. Every resident of America should be concerned with this fight – America’s Constitutional integrity may just hang in the balance.
Challengers Ready to Fight
Several challengers have already decided to stand against Trump’s aggressive funding tactics.
States Take a Stand
On February 18, a group of 16 allied states filed a lawsuit in San Francisco’s Federal District Court. The states, including the likes of California, New Jersey, Colorado, and New York, argue that the president’s aggressive actions are unconstitutional because they usurp Congress’s control over federal spending. The Constitution provides this necessary power to Congress, and it is an important “check” against the executive branch, limiting its power.
According to the states, Trump has “manufactured” a crisis that puts their interests at risk. They are filing to “protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests.”
Other groups and organizations are also challenging Trump’s national emergency. These include interest groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Citizen, and the Defenders of Wildlife. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has not yet filed a lawsuit, but is expected to do so soon.
Congress Fights Back
In addition to the coalition of states, many representatives in Congress itself are also planning action against Trump’s border wall emergency. On February 22, Nancy Pelosi scheduled a House vote on a measure that would override Trump’s emergency powers. The vote was scheduled for Tuesday, February 26. This vote would basically cancel out the president’s declaration and effectively state that there is no emergency at the border. While the measure already has enough support to pass the House, it is not guaranteed to pass the Senate.
According to The New York Times, it does seem likely that such a measure would also pass the Senate. This doesn’t mean much, though, because Trump would certainly veto the action. Congress would need a two-thirds majority to overcome a veto, which is very unlikely. Despite this, Congressional lawmakers, especially Democratic leaders, appear at-the-ready to rein in executive power and restore rightful balance to the government.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that it is the responsibility of Congress to “limit an overreaching executive.” He further explained his fears: “if the president’s emergency declaration prevails, it will fundamentally change the balance of powers in a way our country’s founders never envisioned.”
It is unclear what will happen in the coming weeks and months regarding Trump’s border wall and subsequent national emergency. The fight is a monumental one, involving power, balance, and the integrity of those serving under the Constitution.
Davis & Associates remains updated on national news as well as government actions and reforms. We will post any significant updates to our blog should they become available.
You Can Always Consult an Expert Immigration Lawyer
If the actions of U.S. government leaders make you feel uneasy or uncertain of the future, you are not alone. Many across America feel unsettled during this tumultuous time in our history. For immigrants, the xenophobic rhetoric of leaders like Donald Trump can cause hurt or fear. But don’t worry – you have rights no matter your citizenship status. If you are concerned, or even if you have simple immigration questions, your greatest ally is a qualified immigration attorney. They have the training and toolset required to defend your rights and guide your decision making. Remember, avoid setbacks or heartbreak – do not work with “notarios” or “visa consultants,” who are not qualified to provide legal counsel.
The attorneys at Davis & Associates work tirelessly to serve the people of Houston. If you have any immigration concern, we can help. Schedule a free consultation to talk with one of our skilled and compassionate attorneys. You’ll sit down with us, review your case or questions, and leave with a clear path forward.