President Trump declares a national emergency on the southern border

American President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and exercised executive powers to sign a bill that prevented another government shutdown, which would have been triggered at midnight last Friday, and a funding package that includes USD $1.4 billion for border security. Speaking to an audience that included border patrol agents and ‘Angel Moms’, who are parents of children killed by immigrants in the country illegally, the President said, "We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or another” and predicted the issue would end up before the Supreme Court: "I expect to be sued. We’ll win, I think.” The administration has stated that pretending the border crisis doesn’t exist is an insult to those who face its consequences every day.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials explain the lack of physical infrastructure at the country’s border with Mexico is being continuously exploited for illegal purposes. In January, there was a surge of 22,000 more apprehensions of illegal immigrants at southwest border crossings than January 2018, suggesting that border officers will make over 600,000 apprehensions in 2019. The year-over-year increase was 84 percent, from 25,975 in January 2018 to 47,893 last January. This week, 103 illegal aliens from Central America were detained, in addition to two sex offenders, multiple criminal aliens including some with warrants and convictions for sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder, such as a convicted rapist caught in El Centro, California. A previously deported MS-13 gang member recently apprehended and nearly USD $1 million of drugs were seized in the Rio Grande Valley.

A senior administration official told reporters that the White House plans to move USD $8 billion in currently appropriated or available funds toward construction of the wall. Of that, USD $3 billion could be diverted with help from the emergency declaration. That money includes about USD $600 million from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund. That money has been described as “easy money” that the White House can use however it wants. The White House is also expected to use drug interdiction money from the Department of Defense. By declaring an emergency, President Trump would also seek to unlock money from the Defense Department’s military construction budget, to the tune of USD $3.5 billion.

The President’s decision to declare a national emergency follows a review of the compromise spending package, which was negotiated for weeks in a bipartisan conference committee and passed both the House and the Senate. However, the deal would provide only a fraction of the President’s originally proposed figure of USD $5.7 billion for border security and construction of a wall or physical barrier along the southern border. The bill also imposed a number of restrictions on the White House, with legislative language preventing the administration from moving funding around to get a barrier or a wall, which may have contributed to the emergency declaration decision.