State of Emergency Announced as Government Reopens


The longest government shutdown in history has ended after 35 days- but there is seemingly no end to the political turmoil provoked by the proposed border wall. The concluded shutdown (read the Weddington Witness article summarizing the shutdown here) was initiated after lawmakers could not agree on the budget for building the wall, a central aspect of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign back in 2016. In the end, Congress agreed on a budget of $1.375 billion, several billion dollars less than President Trump’s original request, in order to avoid a second shutdown.

However, Trump has utilized his executive powers to declare a national emergency along the southern border, giving him extensive powers over previously inaccessible aspects of the American budget. In addition to the $1.375 billion allocated by Congress, the President will also be able to divert $3.6 billion from other military projects towards building a wall. The president can also draw upon $2.6 billion from a military antidrug account. He plans to use these excess funds to construct the long-sought-after barrier on the southern border.

He justified his decision in a speech given on February 15th; Trump says the emergency is drug smuggling and crime that he claims can be traced back to immigrants entering the United States.

While a national emergency sounds panic-worthy, they are actually more common than one might think. There have been dozens of national emergencies enacted since the National Emergency Act was passed in 1976, and 31 of these emergencies were never officially resolved. During his time in office, President Obama utilized emergency powers 13 times, almost all of them being for sanctions; most emergency powers are used to press sanctions, or limits, upon people or nations that are believed to be a threat to national security. Despite the surprising mundanity of a national emergency, Mr. Trump’s is still a landmark declaration, as this is the first national emergency to utilize the military since the 9/11 attacks.

The president continues to encounter resistance from all sides in his attempts to complete the wall. Legally, anyone directly affected by the implications of the national emergency can file a lawsuit against Trump – and many already have. At the time of this article’s publication, 16 states have sued the president – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. Although it could be argued in court that several of these states are not directly affected by the declaration of a national emergency – there obviously won’t be any border wall in states like New York and Colorado – the plaintiffs argue that the taxpayers of their respective states did not give their money to support the alternative military projects with the knowledge that this cash would be redirected to fund the wall. They also claim that President Trump does not have constitutional power to control spending, as Congress should be entrusted with this power. Most of the accusing states have Democratic leadership.

This emergency declaration does not have the same wide-reaching impact as the recent government shutdown – government services will remain open and people will retain their jobs, but it does spark a legal battle that will have to be decided by the Supreme Court.