By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Hunger, affordable housing, unemployment, underfunded public schools and climate change are all national emergencies, but not a border wall, critics of President Donald Trump argued as the Commander-in-Chief declared a national emergency to fund his 2016 campaign promise of building a wall on America’s southern border.
“As someone who has visited our southern border several times, the only emergency is the crisis that was created by this administration’s cruel immigration policies that separate families and put innocent children in cages,” said California Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragan.
Congress should never have approved Trump’s budget that included funding that was still well-short of the estimated $6.5 billion border wall, said activist Shaun King.
“All he did was wait until Congress approved some then declared a national emergency the next day,” King said.
The president said declaring the national emergency and other measures will help free as much as $8 billion so he can fund construction for the wall, which would run some 234 miles.
Trump said he’ll get money from multiple sources including tapping into the $3.6 billion earmarked for military construction, $600 million in asset forfeitures seized by the U.S. Treasury Department, $2.5 billion available through the Department of Defense’s drug interdiction program and the nearly $1.4 billion Congress approved earlier in the week for border barriers – an agreement that proved vital in avoiding another government shutdown.
“Sadly, we’ll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we’ll win, I think,” Trump said as he announced the “emergency.”
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it an “unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist” and said it “does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation.”
“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said.
“The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
Even Republicans publicly expressed their opposition to Trump’s decision.
“I’m disappointed with both the massive, bloated, secretive bill that just passed and with the president’s intention to declare an emergency to build a wall,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted.
“I too want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas but how we do things matters. Extra-constitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them,” Paul said.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said, “I generally don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins called Trump’s decision a mistake. “It’s just not good policy,” she said.
Jaime Contreras, a vice president at 32BJ SEIU which represents 700 federally contracted janitors and security officers who were affected by the shutdown, said in a statement that Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency is “a dangerous and unprecedented political maneuver that seems from every angle to violate the separation of powers at the core of our Constitution.”
“At a time when unauthorized border crossing are at an historic low, the real emergency remains that immigrants are being castigated to deflect the pain caused by Trump administration’s assaults on healthcare, labor rights, an equitable tax system, and the continuing promise of the American Dream for working and middle-class families,” Contreras said.
The declaration by Trump also deflects attention from the ongoing crisis created by the historically unprecedented government shutdown, he said.
“For five weeks, workers were robbed of their paychecks, and then the President broke his promise of back pay to all government workers as thousands of contract workers aren’t slated to receive a dime, including hundreds of janitors and security officers who are members of 32BJ SEIU,” Contreras said.
Perhaps echoing the sentiments of many in both parties and Americans in general, former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said the United States currently has one sizeable problem.
“Donald Trump is our national emergency,” Gillum said.