President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 to address the humanitarian crisis on the southwest border and secure funds for border-wall construction. The emergency declaration, combined with a spending bill passed by Congress on Feb. 14, will provide his administration with $8 billion for wall construction, the president said.
While Democrats and media outlets portray the action as unprecedented, Trump pointed out that presidents Obama and Bush declared a combined 56 national emergencies.
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney told reporters on a conference call on Feb. 15 that with the emergency declared, the administration will shift $600 million from the Treasury Department, and $6.1 billion from the military budget for border-wall construction.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border and we’re going to do it one way or the other. We have to do it,” Trump said at the White House. “We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border.”
Congress passed a $333 billion spending bill on Feb. 14 that includes $1.375 billion in funds for the construction of a border wall. The amount is far short of the $5.7 billion Trump demanded last year. Three weeks ago, the president promised to use executive powers if lawmakers failed to secure the funds he asked for.
The $6.1 billion in funds to be drawn from the Department of Defense budget includes $2.5 billion that will be reallocated from the counter drug activity purse and $3.6 billion from the military construction budget.
Trump underlined that national security declarations are a common practice, with 31 already in effect as he spoke. Trump said that his administration will use an emergency declaration signed by President Barack Obama to combat drug cartels. Trump nevertheless expected to be sued. He was optimistic that the Supreme Court would ultimately uphold the declaration.
Several “angel moms,” women whose children or husbands have been killed by illegal aliens, attended the president’s announcement.
“I will sign the final order as soon as I get into the Oval Office and we will have a national emergency, and we will then get sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and then we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we will get another bad ruling, and then we will end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we will get a fair shake, and we’ll win in the Supreme Court,” Trump said with comedic timing, drawing laughter from the audience in the Rose Garden.
The $1.375 billion for wall construction allocated in the spending bill will fund construction of 55 miles of physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley. The spending bill will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Since taking office, Trump has demanded that Congress fund construction of a wall on the southern border, his landmark campaign promise. Democrats, whose votes are needed to reach a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, have thwarted all attempts. Last year, the president followed through on a promise and refused to sign a spending bill that did not include funds for a border wall. As a result, Congress missed a deadline to fund the government, triggering a partial shutdown in December last year. The shutdown stretched on for 35 days, the longest on record.
On average, approximately 2,000 illegal aliens enter the United States on a daily basis, according to the White House. Many of those who enter have criminal histories or are gang members. Cartels are taking advantage of the porous border to smuggle vast amounts of drugs into the country, contributing to an already devastating opioid crisis. Meanwhile, some 10,000 children are trafficked across the border every year to be sold as sex slaves.
As of Feb. 15, there were 31 national emergencies in effect in the United States on issues like drug trafficking, terrorism, and cybercrime. Trump declared three of the emergencies. The president issued the first national emergency in December 2017, targeting perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption. Trump issued his second national emergency in September last year, allowing for sanctions against those who interfere in U.S. elections. He declared a third national emergency in November 2018, addressing human rights abuses and corruption in Nicaragua.