I have never seen anything like the dangerous action President Trump took this week in declaring a national emergency to reallocate billions of dollars for the construction of a wall along our southern border. Here are 3 things you need to know.
1. The precedent is dangerous.
While other presidents have declared national emergencies, none have done so to reallocate billions of dollars after losing a fight with Congress. I joined Republicans in criticizing the methods used by President Obama to do end runs around Congress. They rightly decried the “imperial presidency”. However, nothing Obama, or any President, has ever done rises to the scope of what happened this week.
Why would any future President even bother to negotiate with Congress? When the Democrats win they will simply impose climate change rules or gun control by declaring a national emergency. The deaths traced to guns or climate are significantly greater than those creating an alleged emergency at the southern border.
Our Founders intentionally fought against a king. The powers of the President were limited. Primary power was vested in Article I of the Constitution with Congress. That body was more representative of the people. Impulsive decisions like those made by “mad King George” could be checked by a legislative body. This is why Congress was given the power of the purse.
Regardless of the legality, this is disastrous separation of powers precedent. The Republicans lose any credibility in criticizing executive grabs of power if they permit billions of dollars allocated by them to be reallocated following a loss in negotiations in order to fulfill a campaign promise. They should immediately take back the power given to them and pass a veto proof resolution.
2. The legality is uncertain.
The National Emergencies Act, 50 USC 1601 – 1651, passed in 1976 to curb executive power. The Act fails to define a national emergency, provides some parameters, and primarily develops a process for Congressional notice, override, and underlying Presidential statutory authorization.
Given this lack of specificity it is likely the declaration is lawful. Implementation is a different story. The White House has not submitted to Congress the statutory basis for reallocating funds to construct a barrier along the southern border.
Based on the President’s comments it appears likely he will rely upon either the Military Construction Codification Act or 33 USC Section 2293. The first allows the President to undertake military projects necessary to support use of the armed forces. The problem is policing our southern border is not a military action. Jurisdiction falls to ICE and border patrol. Seizing private lands through eminent domain and militarizing the border would be extreme actions for a democracy.
The second statute allows the President to divert funds to an authorized project essential for national defense. Funds were authorized to construct a physical barrier but not to the extent the President wanted. No other funds are authorized to be diverted. Additionally, it will be a difficult case to argue the wall is necessary for national defense. While the President loves to throw out numbers the reality is crossings have been decreasing over the last decade. The President himself admitted this was not something he needed to do, but wanted to do. That will be a hard sell in the courts.
3. The policy is unwise.
More than dangerous precedent or questionable legality, the question is who are we as Americans? We have a ministry in Honduras called Heart of Christ Honduras. Gracie Travis Murphee just published her first book, Journey to Justice which I highly recommend.
Meet Gracie and hear her story at Restore 117, June 7-8, Judson University.
Recently Gracie shared with me the story of Ericka. Ericka made clothes to sell along with other products in a small store she ran in Honduras. Gangs moved in forcing her to pay rent. When she could not pay they killed her 22 year old son. They threatened to kill her two younger children. Ericka fled with her children in the dark of night to a “gringa” she heard offered protection. That was Gracie. Gracie helped get her out of the country along with a caravan of others making the long trek to the United States. The caravan allegedly filled with thousands of murderers seeking to invade our nation was a caravan of mostly women and children like Ericka. They were tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Our Statue of Liberty contains the Emma Lazarus poem about the Mother of Exiles welcoming people to our shores. Are we a nation that cares about people seeking asylum? If we are then why make it harder to claim asylum? Why force children to argue asylum cases without the help of an attorney? Why not provide more judges to make decisions? Those are actions we would take if we wanted to be the nation our Statue of Liberty represents. Our actions fuel fear in an attempt to turn people against one another. For Christians that should not be. We are called to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger.
Thank you Ebenezer
Ebenezer CRC invited me to preach this past Sunday. Before I spoke several testimonies were read of others making the dangerous trip to America fleeing death and violence. One man rose from the congregation to admit he and his wife have been in this country undocumented for more than 30 years. His wife’s mother died this last week and she could not return home to Mexico for fear of not seeing her children again. Why do we force families to make these decisions?
The crime of crossing the border is minor but the punishment is a virtual death sentence. Is that really who we are? The time has come for men and women of faith to speak up for the dignity of our immigrant neighbors. We must advocate for comprehensive immigration reform which sensibly secures our borders while providing a means to make right the wrong committed in crossing a border and a path to citizenship. The solution isn’t hard. The political will is.
Outside of the political realm, help neighbors near you. Every second Saturday Ebenezer has a lawyer and team of individuals providing the hope of the gospel and the help of a lawyer to neighbors in need. Join Ebenezer, Gracie and hundreds of others across the country making a difference. Visit www.gji.org to get started.