Trump declares national emergency to fund the wall
In his immigration speech today announcing a national emergency, Trump said, "A big majority of the big drugs, the big drug loads don’t go through ports of entry."
It’s unclear what exactly Trump is claiming here regarding “big drug loads,” but the majority of hard narcotics seized at the border are coming through ports of entry — not between them as the President continues to claim.
Here are the facts:
The majority of hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come through ports of entry either in packages, cargo or with people who attempt to enter the US legally.
The only drug that is smuggled in higher numbers between legal entry points is marijuana, according to CBP and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
For example, the majority of the heroin flow on the southern border into the US is through privately owned vehicles at legal ports of entry, according to the DEA. About 90% of heroin seized at the border in the 2018 fiscal year was apprehended at ports of entry.
The majority of meth is also detained at the border. In 2018, CBP seized 67,292 pounds of meth at legal ports of entry, compared with 10,382 pounds by Border Patrol agents in between ports, based on available data.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump’s national emergency declaration is a “predictable and understandable” reaction to obstruction by the Democrats.
McConnell — who had previously opposed an emergency declaration — said Thursday he would support the move after Trump agreed to sign the compromise legislation to avert another government shutdown.
Here's McConnell's full statement from today:
“President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest. I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our homeland security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a defiant statement today after President Trump declared a national emergency at the border:
"President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up 'national emergency' in order to seize power and subvert the constitution. This 'emergency' is a national disgrace, and the blame lays solely at the feet of the President. Meanwhile, he plans to shutdown and divert funds used by California law enforcement that run counter-narcotics operations and fight drug cartels to build his wall. Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court."
This could be the start of a long, nationwide legal battle. House Democrats are expected to sue, though chances of succeeding are slim. They could argue that the situation along the border is not a national emergency -- but the definition of a national emergency is vague and largely up to the President's discretion.
Similarly, landowners along the border whose property is at risk of being seized to mount physical barriers could file suit, and would have a better chance at a successful challenge.
Organizations might also get embroiled in the fight. The Border Network for Human Rights, a immigration reform and advocacy group, stated this morning that they are preparing to announce a lawsuit against the state of emergency declaration.
While President Trump declared a national emergency today in order to secure funding for his border wall, his Trump administration still hasn’t acquired the land it needs to build new physical barriers along the border, even as it embarks on new construction.
The timeline for construction for the first new 14 miles of wall — which is expected to begin in late March — partly depends on real estate acquisitions, according to a senior CBP official.
The start of construction was already pushed back from February to March, according to CBP estimates. It’s unclear what led to the delay.
How this will work: The administration plans to target the Rio Grande Valley, where much of the land is privately owned. Generally, the government is allowed to acquire privately owned land if it's for public use, otherwise known as eminent domain.
The first approximately 14 miles of steel bollard wall to be built in the region will be on a combination of federal land and private land, which is still in the process of being acquired, said the official.
Eminent domain cases can be lengthy, though they generally don’t keep CBP from being able to proceed with construction. Landowners are often fighting for what is known as just compensation — what they deem a fair price for their property.
According to the Justice Department, as of last month, approximately 80 cases were still outstanding.
President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency to fund the wall has drawn condemnation from Democrats — and it has not found universal support among Republicans, either.
"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 Thursday, ahead of Trump's expected announcement. "Extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them."
"I generally don't think it's a good idea," said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida yesterday.
And Sen. Susan Collins of Maine also tweeted a statement, calling the decision "a mistake on the part of the President" and "just not good policy."
Former Rep. Charlie Dent, now a CNN political commentator, criticized President Trump's national emergency declaration as an illegal raid of the military's construction funds. He said the move is "a slap in the face to congress and their power of the purse."
"Of course, we need to establish control of the border, and the President is incapable of articulating a coherent plan," Dent said. "But to raid military construction accounts -- he is breaking the law. You cannot take money from a defense purpose to a non-defense purpose under the budget act. That is the law."
He added that Republican members of the armed services committee were likely to "set themselves on fire over this," describing the declaration as "a slap in the face to Congress and their power of the purse making authorities."
Watch the moment:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said President Trump's national emergency declaration does "great violence" to the US Constitution.
In a joint statement, they said the so-called crisis at the border that Trump described "does not exist."
"This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process."
They urged their Republican colleagues to fight against the declaration.
"Just as both parties honored our oath to protect the American people by passing the conference committee bill, the Congress on a bipartisan basis must honor the Constitution by defending our system of checks and balances," they said. "The President is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution,"
Here's their full statement: