In the News: Challengers Fight Trump’s National Emergency
In recent months, the news has repeatedly reported on the political roller coaster caused by Donald Trump. The president has sparked government and fiscal chaos since mid-December, when he forced a partial shutdown in an attempt to coerce Congress’s fiscal plans. At the crux of this tumultuous time is Trump’s border wall.
The president hoped that his shutdown would result in full funding, a shocking $5.7 billion, for his US-Mexico border wall. Instead, Congress held firm, refusing to balk under pressure. After Trump reluctantly agreed to reopen the government after a historically long partial shutdown, a bipartisan committee began negotiating a fiscal deal that would fund the federal government.
While the committee did broker a bipartisan financial agreement, it did not fund Trump’s wall. Now, in face of another defeat, the president declared a national emergency at the border. While it may seem shocking, emergency powers are technically within the president’s reach. It’s his intent and aggressive utilization of such sweeping powers that concern many Americans.
In this article, we review Trump’s emergency declaration at the border, as well as those who are challenging the president’s actions in court and in Congress. Once you’ve read this information, if you have any additional questions, talk to an experienced immigration attorney.
Bipartisan Deal Didn’t Fund Trump’s Wall
After the end of Trump’s government shutdown, Congress established a special committee to negotiate a lasting deal between Republicans and Democrats. Legislative leaders appeared determined to avoid another shutdown, which caused disastrous effects for American citizens and immigrants alike. For example, during the shutdown, roughly 60,000 immigrants had their court dates delayed. Unfortunately, these delays will likely span years, as some judges are booked through 2022.
The bipartisan, bicameral committee had representatives from both parties and both chambers of Congress. Senators and representatives, Democrats and Republicans, attempted to find a compromise that would fund the federal government. All the while, President Trump continued to demand $5.7 billion for border wall construction.
On February 14, it became clear that the president would not get what he wanted. The committee had come to an agreement, one that did not fund the president’s wall. While it did provide over a billion in extra funding for “physical barriers” at the border, no official cashflow was made available for Trump’s border wall. Further, the amount provided falls far below the president’s requested sum.
The president threatened to stall the agreement, perhaps igniting another shutdown. But, eventually, Trump relented and signed the agreement, funding the federal government. Yet, the president added a shocking announcement – he intended to invoke executive emergency powers in order to the divert funding required for his border wall.
According to The New York Times, the president’s actions have transformed a “highly charged policy dispute into a confrontation over the [Constitution’s] separation of powers.”
National Emergency Declared
The next day (February 15), the president officially announced his declaration of emergency from the Rose Garden. During this meeting, the president likened the situation at the border to an “invasion.” Such xenophobic rhetoric is disappointing from a president of the U.S., especially considering the large amount of crime victims and asylees that cross the border in search of government protection.
During his announcement, the president stated the U.S. has an “invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” Perhaps without surprise, this statement was not supported by facts or data. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the action a “power grab” by a “disappointed president.”
Regarding the emergency powers themselves, the president made a crucial error. Likely without intending to, Trump contradicted his own emergency declaration, stating “I didn’t need to do this.” He continued, “I just want to get it done faster.” This statement will likely be utilized by opponents to highlight that the president declared a national emergency without just cause.
For nearly 50 years, presidents have had emergency powers that allow for quick decisions, especially in wartime. In 1976, the National Emergencies Act gave sweeping executive powers to presidents, intending to allow for swift action when necessary. And presidents have utilized these powers – they have been invoked nearly five-dozen times since 1976.
Yet, Trump’s use of emergency powers is truly a “power grab” like never before. He invoked emergency powers to sidestep Congress and its fiscal control over the country. Due to this, the president’s actions cause concern about a constitutional crisis as an executive usurps the Legislature’s power of the purse.
The foundation of the U.S. government is checks and balances. Each branch of government “checks” another, creating a balance of power that limits the strength of any one person, entity, or group. The founders were especially concerned about the executive branch, which can become too powerful and autocratic should it have too much control.
Thus, Trump’s actions have challenged the delicate balance of power that maintains the integrity of the U.S. government and its democracy. Luckily, challengers have risen to fight the president’s actions. We discuss a few of them below.
You can read more about presidential emergency powers in our previous article on this topic.
Opponents Challenge Constitutionality of Trump’s Actions
Several significant opponents have disputed the president’s actions. Below, we discuss lawsuits being filed through U.S. courts as well as Congress’s attempt to negate the emergency.
Opposing States File Suit
On February 18, a group of 16 states filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco. The allied group includes states like New Jersey, Colorado, New York, Delaware, Nevada, Maine, and California. The lawsuit, California et al. v. Trump et al., appears prepped and ready to be a true constitutional show down.
Within the lawsuit, the Plaintiff States claim that they are fighting the president to “protect their residents, resources, and economic interests from President Donald J. Trump’s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution.” (Read more about the lawsuit here.)
In short, the lawsuit doesn’t question a president’s ability to utilize emergency powers. What it does challenge is how a president can use such powers. When president’s use executive powers meant for emergencies to overcome Congressional denials, it disrupts the delicate balance of power required by our Constitution. Additionally, the states have also highlighted that the president himself stated (as we discuss above) that he simply did this to get things done faster. Such behavior does not constitute responsible use of powers.
Other organizations are also fighting the president’s use of emergency powers. These groups include the likes of Public Citizen, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is also expected to file a suit shortly.
House Votes to Null Trump’s National Emergency
On February 26, a Democrat-led House of Representatives passed a measure to block the president’s emergency declaration. The measure passed with a 245 votes yes and 182 no. While it is exciting to see Congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi take explicit action against the president’s actions, it appears that there will not be enough votes to overcome a presidential veto.
Now, the measure will travel to the Senate, where it must be considered within weeks. Only three Republican Senators have confirmed they will vote with Democrats. Though according to NPR, insiders believe that the measure will pass. If and when the House’s measure passes the Senate, the president will surely veto it. Then, in order to overcome a presidential veto, the measure must receive a two-thirds majority within Congress, meaning that this action is likely to prove incapable of stopping the president.
If and when this occurs, Congressional Democratic leaders will continue the fight. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have both expressed their intentions to take the fight to the courts.
No matter what happens, this tumultuous time is surely testing the strength of the U.S. constitution. Can it truly stand against what Schumer calls an “overreaching executive?”
We’ve written about this topic several times in the last few months. Below, we’ve listed our relevant news articles with links for your convenience.
- Senate Denies “End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act”
- Asylum Denials Increase Under the Trump Administration
- Immigration Court Delays Worsen Due to Government Shutdown
- Can Trump Declare A National Emergency to Fund Border Wall?
- Government Shutdown Looms as Trump Demands Border Wall Funding
Contact an Austin Immigration Lawyer
Current news can be frightening, especially for U.S. immigrants. But the xenophobic rhetoric and actions of leaders like Donald Trump face challengers determined to protect civil liberties and defend the Constitution. If you or a loved one faces any immigration concern, talk to an expert immigration attorney. Immigration lawyers train to ensure they can accurately guide your actions and protect your rights. Remember, avoid notarios or “visa consultants,” who don’t have the training or skills to truly help.
At Nanthaveth & Associates, our skilled team passionately serves the Austin area. We work with immigrants from across Texas and have experience in all facets of immigration law. If you’d like to talk to one of our expert lawyers, contact us today! For your convenience, your first consultation is free. No matter your immigration concern, you’re not alone.
Let us clear a path for you – contact us today!