A Different National Emergency Looms

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A Different National Emergency Looms

Illustration by Aqsa Khan

Illustration by Aqsa Khan

Illustration by Aqsa Khan

Rylee Smith, Opinions Editor

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You know when you’re playing a board game and the person who’s losing starts making up new rules?

That’s what presidents do when they decide that, if Congress isn’t going to do what they want, they’ll just go ahead and do it themselves.

It’s what Obama did when he created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, despite admitting in 2010 and 2011 that he was “not king,” and couldn’t ignore or change immigration laws without the approval of Congress, according to Politifact. He explained DACA as a mere extension of his executive ability to prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws. The key issue is that our elected officials in Congress did not make this law, despite having jurisdiction over immigration.

Obama appealed to Congress to take a certain action, and took matters into his own hands when they didn’t. Trump is in the process of doing the same thing.

By making use of Section 1621 of the National Emergencies Act, Trump has the authority to declare a national emergency and take on certain powers that the act allows. This includes the ability “to draw resources from the Army’s civil works program to construct ‘authorized civil works, military construction, and civil defense projects that are essential to the national defense,’” according to The National Review.

Since Trump declared a national emergency Feb. 15, he is within his rights under that law to put money towards strengthening the southern border with a wall. The thing is, though, that he shouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely and wholeheartedly think we should build the wall. I can’t think of one good reason to not regulate who comes into a country, and require them to come through a valid port of entry. Not protecting the border is a hill on which I just don’t understand why Democrats are willing to die. But for some reason, a lot of other people in this country disagree with me on that. They voted for Congressmen and women who don’t want to give the $5 billion that the president needs to pay for the wall. Going against their will with a national emergency is the wrong way to build the wall.

The reason the government was shut down over this issue is because Trump expected to use funds granted by Congress. He wanted Congressional approval, because the system of checks and balances isn’t supposed to allow for a president going rogue.

The United States is wonderful because we don’t believe that just because a president thinks he’s in the right, that he just gets to make new laws. The people chose their legislating body, and that should be the only group of people making such decisions. Some argue that Trump’s actions will allow the next president to declare a national emergency on climate change or gun control and take whatever action he or she deems necessary, but I believe that would have happened anyway.

Still, that’s just one more reason that this is now Congress’s pressing problem. There was originally a legislative veto to the president’s powers under the National Emergencies Act, but it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case INS v. Chadha (1983). So it’s time that Congress takes some responsibility and makes a new law to fix this mess.

Congress doesn’t like to make controversial decisions like this. That’s why we didn’t get a wall when Republicans had the power to build it, just last year. They would rather talk to reporters about how terrible it is that the other side doesn’t agree with them and campaign for their next election. If they continue to do that, the president (whoever he or she may be) will take unilateral action.

If we continue to let such solitary actions slide, then we can’t be surprised when presidents are less and less likely to admit they are “not king.”