Saint Louis University

National Emergency to Build Border Wall by Susmitha Chinni

On Tuesday, February 15th president Trump declared a national emergency toward the United States and Mexico border. 

Such powers allow Trump to divert funds from other government departments. Trump planned on expunging $3.6 billion from military construction projects that were intended for housing and training, $2.5 billion from counternarcotic programs, and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund. This amount is combined with 1.375 billion which was authorized in the spending package totals to an estimated $8 billion for all barriers, more than the $5.7 billion he had demanded, but failed to procure, earlier from Congress. This event also follows Trump failing to negotiate funds in the fallout which led to the government having its longest shut down.

Under the National Emergencies Act passed by Congress in 1976, the president is allowed at his discretion to call a national emergency and be granted more powers he would otherwise be limited to. Past presidents have declared national emergencies for foreign crises which involved freezing property or taking actions against national adversaries –not redirecting money without the authorization from congress (Baker). 

This event is part of the larger problem not only in the logistics of trying to build a border wall, but another example of democratic backsliding from the president. Previously in the discussion of gathering the funds for building the proposed border wall, Trump adamantly stated in conferences and on social media that Mexico will pay for the wall. This was fact checked, and proved that the United States would have to pay to build a wall between the two countries. 

Trump has been advocating for the building of the wall since his campaign, an early red flag, now calling for its construction as a national emergency is another example of abusing his powers. This authoritarian behavior is demonstrated by going around the constitution and trying to manipulate laws that were not intended for misuse. Trump further rejects democratic norms by undermining the legitimacy of the government since the democratic and republican party has negated against providing the funding Trump has been asking for. Trump pushing for a wall in spite of both parties rejection shows that he is not advocating for America’s best interest, but his own. 

Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, political scientists who study the breakdown of regimes, argue that regime change is gradual. In the fight for the border wall, each step has been an incremental step that escalates in the tactics Trump uses to achieve his agenda. 

Linz and Stepan talk about how governments are only legitimate as people view them to be. When there are more citizens being obedient and compliant a government will be successful, however their claims stake on a government acting in the best interest of their citizens. The battle for building the border wall has been preached by Trump that he is acting in the best interest of national security. However, the reality of the situation has been hotly debated and many lawsuitshave been filed by homeowners who argue the wall is not in their best interest. 

Linz and Stepan talk about how people should believe in the democratic institutions, that they can rely on their government helping them. Such institutions like being properly represented and having resources that are helpful. What is crucial in their argument is that even if there are some people against the government or government institutions, a majority of people still have faith in the government and the process of democracy.

Trumps behaviors, especially in how he interacts with media about building the border wall, splits citizens between having trust in the government and not trusting the government. The border wall and rhetoric that has been used to appeal to the american people and members of congress further the racial problem of “othering”. Rallying American citizens to support building the border wall is another way to curbside the opinions of congress. David Smithand German Lopez, writers for The Guardian and Vox (respectively), mapped out the president’s past uses of strategic rhetoric or racial comments that have impacted certain radical groups in America. Trump’s response to immigration in the United States and in other countries can be internalized by American citizens who silent agree to vocalize their disagreement and shift the opinions of Americans who are indecisive about border wall to support the construction. This event has added to the racial tensions in the united states. Trump already has called for adding a questionof determining citizenship to the 2020 census form. From a poll, 56% Americans oppose Trump’s declaration.

Robert C. Lieberman and other professors in the field politics and government wrote about the relationship between Trump and the American Democracy. They argue that Trump threaten democracy with going against democratic norms and contributing to the negative feeling American have towards American democracy. As mentioned with Trump’s past actions, like going around the constitution by declaring a national emergency, for a reason a majority of Americans do not agree with, makes people lose trust in the government. Liberman talks about the difficult relationship American people have distrusting the government but in need of government institutions. The border wall is problematic because it challenges the idea of citizenship and rights to minority groups.  

This bananas situation that once seemed like a far-fetched idea in a campaign is slowly escalating to maybe Trump grabbing a shovel himself. He called a national emergency after been rejected of funds from congress, and whether or not the he achieves being able to reallocate funds from different departments, his methodology is rapidly getting dangerous. Right now, because congress agrees on not allowing Trump to build a wall, Trump is trying to go around congress with his presidential powers.  However, If he can keep rallying groups who support the border wall with hate speech, congress will be put in to be amenable to not ruin chances of being re-elected. Trump applying other measures that limit citizenship and access for minority groups to be represented is another way he abuses his powers, and make sure his voice is the only voice is the loudest. This battle is far from over as Trump’s border wall is still not built, but the steps he is taking toward his goal are no longer just in the shadows.  


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