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Trump to Declare 'National Emergency' to Fund Wall Threatening Borderland Communities and Wildlife
Trump made the announcement minutes before the House and Senate began voting on a bipartisan spending package that would keep the federal government open without allocating money for the wall, avoiding another government shutdown. The measure passed both houses, and Trump said he would sign it, but not without also declaring an emergency to secure around $8 billion in wall funding, something he could do as early as Friday, The New York Times reported.
"President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action—including a national emergency—to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, according to The New York Times.
Trump plans to make the declaration at 10 a.m. Friday. Since it would reallocate money already earmarked by Congress for other purposes, CNN's Stephen Collinson called it "Trump's most striking assault yet on the system of constitutional order that he is sworn to preserve, protect and defend." If the emergency declaration is not blocked by the courts, it would also establish a precedent by which future presidents could bypass Congress. The move could backfire on Republicans, granting a future Democratic president the ability to run around Congress on issues like gun control or climate change, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned.
"If the President can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people," she said Thursday, as CNN reported.
Democrats, some Republicans and leading environmental groups have criticized the president's decision and promised legislative and legal opposition.
"Donald Trump's illegal national emergency declaration is one of the most shocking, dangerous, and damaging abuses of power by any president in our country's history," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "It's a blatant violation of the Constitution's separation of powers—and all for an unnecessary, unwanted, and racially motivated border wall. This is one of the lowest lows for the institution of the presidency. The Sierra Club will take swift legal action against Trump's declaration."
Environmental organizations also criticized the bipartisan spending package, which does allocate around $1.4 billion for around 55 miles of fencing in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) reported. While this falls far short of the $5.7 Trump sought for a barrier, it still puts borderland wildlife and communities at risk.
"This despicable deal will wall off the Rio Grande Valley. It will permanently destroy spectacular ecosystems and wildlife habitat, and seize private land from Texas families," CBD public lands policy specialist Paulo Lopes said. "Trump and Republicans have doubled down on their racist agenda to build a monument to hate and fear. Anyone who votes for this is voting for Trump's border wall, no matter what euphemism they try to hide behind. This is an enormous waste of taxpayer money that will do nothing to stop illegal drugs or human trafficking."
The emphasis on a border wall also sets a troubling precedent in an era of climate change, which will likely force more and more people in the global South to migrate north as conditions deteriorate. Many of the immigrants traveling from Central America towards the U.S. border are driven partially by a prolonged drought that could be related to climate change, and the region is expected to suffer increased climate impacts in future years.
"A quasi-fascist policy of fear-mongering about immigration and corresponding militarization of the border is clearly the major thrust of Trump's response to the mounting impacts of climate chaos," Ashley Dawson, author of Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, told the Huffington Post in October 2018.
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