News & Politics

Yes, There's a Severe Crisis at the Border. But Is It a 'National Emergency'?

Yes, There's a Severe Crisis at the Border. But Is It a 'National Emergency'?
People pass graffiti along the border structure in Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

There can’t be a debate anymore over whether or not there is a crisis at our southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says that 76,000 people tried to cross the border into the U.S. in February. That’s more than double the number from February 2018.

Fox News:

The system is “well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters on Tuesday as the agency released the “record numbers” of those trying to enter the U.S. through the southern border.

Officials said that 76,103 people — an increase of 31 percent over January — were apprehended. Of those, 7,249 were unaccompanied children, and 40,385 were family units — totaling 60 percent of apprehensions.

Brian Hastings, the chief of law enforcement operations at the agency, told reporters that historically, 70 to 90 percent of apprehensions at the border included Mexican nationals.

As of Tuesday, he said, 70 percent of those arrested for attempting entry without proper documentation are from the “Northern Triangle of Central America,” which includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

“It should be very clear from these numbers that we are facing alarming trends in the rising volumes of people illegally crossing our southwest border, or arriving at our ports of entry without documents,” McAleenan said.

While fewer people overall are being apprehended crossing the border illegally each year, he said the increased numbers are “currently at our highest levels in over a decade both a border security and humanitarian crisis.”

This is a crisis of worrying proportions — both humanitarian and security. The reasons these people are coming at this point in time aren’t important. What’s important is that their numbers are increasing and something needs to be done to stem the flow of illegal aliens crossing our border.

Yes, Democrats, there is a genuine crisis at the border. It’s not a political ploy by the president. People are dying and the nation is at risk. But is declaring a “national emergency” to build a wall really the answer?

If the border situation is truly a national emergency, why doesn’t the president rush tens of thousands of troops to the border?  The few thousand National Guard troops he’s deployed there aren’t enough to deal with the crisis.

And if the situation is an emergency, why build a wall that will take years to complete?

The answer is that a president declaring a “national emergency” has lost much of its meaning over the last 50 years. Every president has declared at least several — very few of which had anything to do with the nation’s security. Most presidents used the national emergency for the same reason Trump is using it: to get around a Congress that fails to act.

It’s a tool in the executive’s toolbox, nothing more. But the notion of appropriating money that hasn’t been authorized by Congress does not sit well with many conservative members of Congress, nor does the very idea of a “national emergency.” Indeed, the scope of executive power granted the president in these emergencies is frightening. There are some Republicans who believe that declaring a national emergency should be done only when there is a genuine and serious threat against the nation.

You can reasonably argue that Trump is justified in declaring an emergency on the border. But the way he wants to address it — appropriating funds without congressional approval to build a wall that won’t be finished for years — can and should be questioned.