With President Donald Trump expected to issue a national emergency declaration as early as Friday in an attempt to subvert Congress and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president is facing potent and angry opposition from all sides—with legal action almost certain, mass public protests being planned, and renewed talk of impeachment—as critics argue that while Trump has created a fake emergency to fulfill his xenophobic campaign promise about the wall, the real emergencies are ones he created himself and others he and Republicans continue to ignore.
"Our real national emergency is Trump & [Senate Majority Mitch] McConnell's racist lies about Latinx & Mexican immigrants," declared civil rights leader and anti-poverty campaigner Rev. William Barber II in a tweet late Thursday night. "It's their denial of healthcare, racist voter suppression, & addiction to low wage jobs, ecological devastation & militarism."
In an email to his group's members, Public Citizen president Robert Weissman vowed to file a lawsuit to challenge the president's declaration, but said it remains vital for the American people to raise their voices against the president. He wrote:
To state the obvious, there is no serious claim to be made of an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border to justify construction of a wall.
Every halfhearted and palpably fabricated rationale to justify claims of emergency has been thoroughly and embarrassingly debunked:
- Unauthorized immigration is not surging.
- There is no terrorist invasion from Mexico.
- Illegal drug traffic is channeled through legal ports of entry, not open border areas.
The only crisis at the border is the buildup in Mexico of families seeking asylum in the United States — but those people are seeking legal entry into the United States, and the crisis is due to the Trump administration's refusal to afford them humane treatment.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), meanwhile, said that Trump has no authority whatsoever to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall:
Law only allows the use of a #NationalEmergency in two scenarios:
1. Declaration of war
2. Emergency requiring the use of armed forces
Not because you failed at negotiating & Mexico won't pay for your racist wall.
The American people will see you in court, @realDonaldTrump.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) February 14, 2019
And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the president must be "vigorously" opposed:
There is not a "national emergency" with regard to the southern border. What President Trump is doing is unlawful and must be opposed vigorously in the courts and legislatively.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 14, 2019
Kathryn Hampton, coordinator of the Asylum Network program for Physicians for Human Rights, explained that the only emergency along the border "is a human rights crisis of the administration's own making in its denial of asylum seekers' basic health and human rights."
While Trump, under a national emergency declaration would seek to commandeer funds allocated for other purposes, Hampton says that current funding meant for humanitarian concerns is already "being misdirected from appropriate staffing at ports of entry, the efficient processing of asylum seekers waiting in desperation and in danger on the Mexican side of the border, and the provision of adequate medical care to those in custody."
Like Rev. Barber, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) was among those who also chimed in, listing unaffordable drug prices, pervasive economic insecurity, the climate crisis, the epidemic of over-crowded prisons, and the fact that cities like Flint, Michigan still have no clean water as true "national emergencies" that deserve immediate attention:
Here are some national emergencies that the United States should be addressing immediately. pic.twitter.com/Jqdz6iLXP2
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) February 15, 2019
Referencing McConnell's recent complaint that Democratic efforts in Congress to make voting more accessible for the American public was akin to some kind of "power grab," economist Robert Reich asked: "So let me get this straight: Declaring Election Day a national holiday would be a 'power grab,' but declaring a national emergency over a manufactured crisis is totally fine?"
Gun violence. Climate change. The fact that 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in savings. These are national emergencies.
Do you know what’s not? Trump’s manufactured border crisis.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 14, 2019
Real national emergencies:
- 1 in 5 Americans skip needed health care due to cost
- 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses
- Climate change threatens to disrupt every aspect of our lives
Not an emergency, not needed, not moral:
- Building a racist border wall
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) February 14, 2019
Declaring a national emergency over this President's vanity project is ridiculous. We don't need a wall. Instead, we should address the actual emergencies facing our country — everything from gun violence to the opioid crisis.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
The real national emergency is the political emergency President Trump created with his campaign promise to build a southern border wall. Declarations of national emergencies are for true national emergencies, like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, not for political cover.
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) February 14, 2019