On February 15, 2019, President of the United States Donald Trump declared a National Emergency concerning the Southern Border of the United States.

President Trump, citing an “invasion” of drugs and criminals, declared a national emergency to fund construction of a border wall along US-Mexico Border.

US President can now bypass the opposition in Congress and can redirect billions of dollars in federal funds to build the wall.

Cause of declaration:

Recently the federal government of US was shut down for 35 days, the longest in U.S. history. The tussle was over Trump’s insistence on building a border wall with Mexico.

  • Trump is concerned with invasion of illegal immigrants into the country with drugs, human traffickers, and all types of criminals and gangs from Mexico.
  • Trump refused to sign off on Congressional appropriations bills unless lawmakers agreed to hand over $5.7 billion to fund this plan.
  • The shutdown was ended after costing around $11 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • So Trump declared emergency to bypass the Congress to pursue his motives.

About National Emergency in the USA:

The United States can be subjected to more than 30 national emergencies and can be declared for various reasons. The National Emergencies Act (NEA) 1976 formalizes the emergencies powers of the President. The Act empowers the President to activate special powers during a crisis but imposes certain procedural formalities when invoking such powers. Under the powers, the President may

  • seize property, commodities
  • organize and control the means of production
  • assign military forces abroad, institute martial law
  • seize and control all transportation and communication
  • regulate the operation of private enterprise
  • restrict travel
  • in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.

It also permits the diversion of funds from military or disaster relief budgets to tackle the “crisis” at hand.

Since 1976, presidents have declared at least at least 58 states of emergency. Most of them were under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act which allows the president to impose economic sanctions.

The Congress can revoke a declaration by majority vote, though it would take a two-thirds vote by each house to override an expected presidential veto.

Consequences:

The emergency declaration is likely to be challenged in court by states and others. many lawsuits have already been filed.

Democrats who now control the House of Representatives may, under their constitutional powers, vote to terminate the emergency. But this would require the support of Republican-controlled Senate.

Also, the decision is contentious not only because it undermines democracy but it set a dangerous precedent for future Presidents to declare emergency for less significant causes. The border crossings by undocumented migrants have decreased from 1.3 million in 2001 to about 40,000 in 2018 and are at an all-time low.