By Briana Brady—Assistant Features Editor
A national emergency, huh? That’s what President Trump called the situation regarding immigration along the border of Mexico on Feb. 15th, 2019, as he announced his signing of a declaration allowing previously allocated money to be redirected to a cause of his own: constructing the southern border wall.
While Trump claims there is a security crisis along the border, factually, the numbers prove that unauthorized immigrants do not pose a threat to America in the ways framed by him.
As reported in Nov. 2018 by Pew Research Center, overall immigrant numbers have fallen recently, which is “mainly due to a decrease in the number of unauthorized immigrants coming to the U.S. The fall in the growth of the unauthorized immigrant population can partially be attributed to more Mexican immigrants leaving the U.S. than coming in.”
Further, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. was lower in 2016 than in any other time since 2004, and specifically, the number of Mexican immigrants has been declining over recent years. There are an estimated 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. right now; that total makes up less than 4% of the population. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that less than 6% of the prison population consists of non-U.S. citizens.
Still, immigrant families are being separated at the border, many of whom are seeking asylum and rest from what are often abusive situations or devastating poverty. Two children died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s custody in Dec. 2018 alone. Through policy, human beings are being treated inhumanely.
Regardless f your opinion on the topic of immigration reform, and I think everyone would agree a new approach of some kind is necessary, the facts are the facts.
But now, facts are being threatened and have been throughout the course of this administration. Truth is seen as subjective. The extent of presidential power has been stretched to its greatest capacity yet. No matter how you feel about the wall, this national emergency declaration marks the subjugation of presidential power in a way unlike any before.
But how will America respond?
Trump is right in saying that the declaration of national emergencies are relatively routine occurrences within presidential terms, but his framing and context is wrong: this emergency was not declared to provide aid to a natural disaster, enact sanctions, or respond to a terrorist attack, as practically all have been in the past.
This declaration is different; it comes after the President didn’t get his way in Congress to satisfy his trademark promise. It encapsulates an abuse of power that threatens the entire foundation of limits of authority, checks and balances, and moral leadership upon which this country was founded.
The government’s purse strings were designed by the Founders to be kept in the hands of Congress. Will they remain in the hands of the elected legislators, or will they be cached into the pocket of the president? Furthermore, if this precedent is indeed set by Trump, one can easily see how it could be taken even further in the future by individuals on both sides of the aisle. All of the above issues absolutely have to be addressed for the preservation of democracy and the duration of the republic.
Notably, on the same day that Trump announced this declaration, another mass shooting occurred, this time at a manufacturing company in Aurora, Illinois.
The New York Times reports that since the Parkland school shooting, nearly 1,200 children have died from guns.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, each day, more than 130 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids.
The ACLU notes that while the U.S. makes up approximately 5% of the world’s global population, it is home to nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Further, one in three black boys born today can expect to go to prison within his lifetime, one in six Latino boys can expect the same, and in comparison, one in 17 white boys faces the same reality.
Aren’t these all national emergencies, too?
The U.S. government wasn’t designed to be efficient, smooth-sailing, nor accommodating to the executive. It was designed to represent the people of America through deliberation, checks and balances, separation of powers, and ultimately, compromise through collaboration.
The bottom line is this: how the Supreme Court (almost inevitably) answers the question of whether a President has the power to declare a national emergency for a cause which he was unable to garner support for in Congress is one that will truly define the enduring reach of presidential power. This is a pivotal moment and a critical decision for America. Both in policy and in power, who are we? And who will we become?
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” -James Madison, Federalist 47