WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced that he will declare a national emergency in order to obtain billions of dollars in federal funds for a border wall.
“I’m going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said, speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House.
Through a combination of executive authorities — some of which require a national emergency declaration — Trump is aiming to redirect more than $6 billion in federal funds toward the construction of a wall or barrier on the US-Mexico border on top of the $1.375 billion Congress authorized for fencing in the bill Trump will sign Friday morning. If successful, the actions could allow Trump to fund the construction of hundreds of miles of new border barriers.
Senior administration officials say that with the declaration, Trump will have access to $600 million could come from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction program and $3.5 million from a military construction budget.
Democrats will almost certainly challenge the declaration in court, as critics pre-emptively argued that Trump cannot use the national emergency authority to free up taxpayer funds and build the border wall he has long promised his political supporters.
“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement Thursday. “It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the President’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”
Several Republican lawmakers also expressed serious concerns about Trump’s move to declare a national emergency, concerned about the precedent Trump’s move to bypass Congress might set. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously opposed an emergency declaration, said Thursday he would support the move after Trump agreed to sign the compromise legislation to avert another government shutdown.
Trump’s move to sign the bill and take executive action concludes three weeks of negotiations between lawmakers over a budget deal. Trump had privately expressed frustration about the negotiations, which amounted to less border-wall funding than he had requested. The agreement included $1.375 billion for about 55 miles of new physical barriers — based on pre-Trump era designs — in the Rio Grande Valley sector.
According to federal data, Customs and Border Protection apprehended nearly 400,000 people along the Southwest border in fiscal year 2018, an increase from 2017 but a decrease from 2016. Many of those apprehended were claiming asylum.