There is a national emergency and it is called the presidency of Donald Trump. An unpopular President who has been employing an unpopular shutdown tactic to pursue an unpopular border wall — a project he promised México would pay for — is gearing up to grant himself the unilateral power to go around the Congress so he can spend taxpayer money according to his whim.
Trump is not an emperor who can lower a crown onto his own head and declare an emergency that doesn’t exist to divert appropriated funds to his pet project. If he does so, it will be an abuse of power. If he does so, it will undermine the Constitution’s separation of powers. If he does so, it will be a direct attack on the power of the purse reserved for the Congress.
There is no national security crisis at the border. Refugees and migrants coming to América from Central América are escaping violence in search of freedom and the opportunity to work hard. The only emergency on the border is a humanitarian one caused by this administration and it’s relentlessly cruel deterrence policies aimed at children and families. The Trump administration has ripped kids from the arms of their parents, jailed kids in cages and in camps, tear gassed women and children and gutted American law that says it’s perfectly legal to come to América to request protection as refugees.
Let’s be clear: this border wall obsession is not about sound policy, national security or good governance. This is about the President’s ego, his brand and his desperate attempt to survive politically. He and his allies are spewing lies, stoking fear and inciting hatred in order to divert attention from his mounting scandals and growing unpopularity. All of this is in the service of justifying a rally chant and a campaign memory trick. They tried racism and xenophobia in the 2018 midterms and it backfired miserably. The fact that they are doubling down on this failed strategy brings to mind the definition of insanity.
If we had a competent President interested in the country rather than himself, and if we had a Republican Party interested in governing rather than in coddling their Dear Leader, policy makers would be coming together to pursue bipartisan solutions. We would invest in smart border strategies including modernized infrastructure and state of the art technology. We would invest in a robust and commonsense approach to screening asylum applicants to determine who qualifies as refugees. And we would be gearing up to modernize and overhaul our immigration system so that it reflects our values and serves our interests.
Unfortunately, we do not have a competent President. Nor do we have enough independent Republicans in Congress. This is why we have a federal government shutdown and this is why we appear to be headed for something like a constitutional crisis. We can and must do better.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of América’s Voice.
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