Wall money better spent elsewhere
January 9, 2019
As I write this column, President Donald Trump has not yet carried out his threat — he says he doesn’t make threats, but I don’t know what else to call it — to declare a national emergency in order to build his wall at the Mexican border.
Should he? In my opinion, no.
Can he? Can he declare that people, including many children, who seek to escape brutal, lawless gang rule in Central America by coming to the U.S. constitute an emergency threat to national security?
Maybe, it seems.
Current law is vague about what can constitute a national emergency. Let’s face it, genuine emergencies can crop up from a variety of conditions in a variety of ways, and a president should have wide discretion to deal with situations that require urgent action.
The most recent national emergency act, passed in 1976, however, does require the president to specify “the provisions of law under which the president or other officials will act.”
In all likelihood the president could still take extraordinary measures under color of emergency to enforce provisions of laws against immigration without permission.
The intent of the 1976 law was to increase Congress’ ability to check the president’s power to declare national emergencies by, among other things, allowing Congress to overrule such declarations.
To overrule a presidential emergency declaration, however, both houses of Congress must vote to nullify it, and the president must sign their joint resolution.
It would be a political miracle if enough Senate Republicans broke with the president to pass the resolution, let alone override the inevitable veto.
The courts may have to cancel a phony emergency, and there is precedent.
The U.S. Supreme Court canceled a presidential declaration of emergency when President Harry Truman tried to nationalize the steel industry during the Korean War.
Some in the court’s majority thought the president did not have the authority to “make laws” even during wartime. Others thought the steel industry situation just wasn’t dire enough to warrant an emergency takeover.
I would hope the courts cancel the president’s emergency declaration to build his wall by asking “What emergency?” and “What threat to national security?”
Illegal immigration has been an issue for decades, but only under Trump has it been seen as a threat to security.
Illegal immigration now helps alleviate some labor shortages on the one hand but burdens health, welfare and education systems on the other.
National security is not the issue.
Criminals and illegal drugs do threaten security. Criminals and drugs would freely pass over, under or around a wall.
Trump’s barricade would only tell our neighbors we assume their citizens pose some kind of threat.
The current situation in Central America is a humanitarian crisis and should be treated as such.
The $5 billion for a wall would be better spent to streamline asylum-seeking for refugees from gang rule and find better ways to block criminals and drugs — and, while we’re at it, find real ways to protect our border.
Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: