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Policy Summary
Earlier this month, the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed a new spending bill that addressed 7 spending bills that had expired during the government’s recent shutdown. The bill is very hefty at 1,100 pages, but received an 82-16 vote to pass it. Trump  signed the bill, while simultaneously declaring a national emergency in order to acquire emergency funding for his wall. With the declaration of a national emergency, Trump can possibly have access to the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund, the Defense Department’s drug interdiction program and military construction budget. In our next Brief we will report on the status of efforts to provide the greater amount of border wall funding (at least $5 billion) that Trump seeks to get through an Emergency Declaration.

In the new spending bill  House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed on $1.375 billion for “physical barriers” at the border which will fund approximately 55 miles of fencing (a very small figure compared to the $5.7 billion Trump has been demanding for the wall). Republicans have described the amount as a “down payment” and have coined this phrase to help persuade the President to sign the bill to avoid another shutdown. The $1.375 billion is to be implemented with some guidelines: physical barriers refers to pedestrian and levee fencing along the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and there is no concrete allowed. Only the existing technologies can be used for the building of fencing and barriers. In total, there is supposed to be $22.5 billion allocated for border security: in addition to funds for 55 miles of physical barrier, funds for more border security agents, customs officers, immigration judges and technology to detect drugs and weapons. However, the overall number of detention beds (currently 49,057) is supposed to decline to 40,540 for the year. Federal workers are to receive a 1.9% pay raise and the US Census spending will increase by $1 billion (including $17 billion to improve infrastructure likes bridges, roads and airports). The spending package of the bill will also fund 8 other departments: commerce, housing and urban development, agriculture, interior, justice, state, transportation, and treasury.

Analysis
The declaration of a national emergency at the same time frame as the signing of the Congressional spending bill can be seen as a double-edged sword. This bill was essentially curated and promoted as a compromise  to avoid a second shutdown – in the interest of not harming many lives and jobs. However Trump was not  happy with said compromise. Despite Congressional  efforts to move past the funding for the wall,  Trump has had his eye set on obtaining the funds for the wall even if that meant signing the Congressional border security spending bill – his down payment – with the full intention of declaring a national emergency anyway. By seeking to draw down on government funding for his “national emergency” Trump also is usurping the power to appropriate funds that the Constitution states is reserved for Congress.

In violating the Constitution, Trump sent a message to America (and the world) that he will dodge and disregard various laws and regulations to get his way. Even if that means shutting down the government and declaring a national emergency for something that is not an imminent threat. Addressing this ‘humanitarian crisis’  in the way Trump intends wwill take possibly years of construction, agreements, and implementation. Thus, a national emergency that requires a time costly solution, is not a national emergency in its most basic definition at all.

Resistance Resources

  • Opposition – No Border Walls: a resource that provides cities, states and coalitions of organizations that have taken a stance against Trump’s wall.
  • Stop Trump’s Wall: a non-profit that opposes Trump’s wall that utilizes video submissions explaining why his wall is ineffective, not a good idea, bad for the environment, etc.
  • Sierra Club: a grassroots environmental organization that has sued the US government in opposition of the wall.

 

Photo by Aleksandar Popovski

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