On February 15th of this year, Trump declared a national emergency at the Southern border, outlining immigration as a security crisis. The Trump administration has claimed that illegal immigrants are an issue on two main fronts, one; they are bringing drugs across the border, and two, they are creating violence in America.
Thus, Trump has allocated about 6 billion dollars worth of federal funds to build barriers on the Southern border. He signed this even after Congress agreed to allocate 1.375 billion dollars to securing fencing on the border. For a nearly non-existent threat, 1.375 billion dollars should have been plenty. Largely the responses from the left have been calling attention to issues that they feel are true national emergencies and arguing that a National Emergency is should be declared on a different front (such as gun control, sexual assault, etc.).
I'm not here to say that those problems aren't significant issues. They should be taken care of, they should be solved. But, herein lies what people are missing; a National Emergency is a sacred piece of presidential power that should be respected through selective and serious usage. I agree, I would certainly rather have a National Emergency declaration in regard to almost any other American issue. But my premier concern about this recent turn of events isn't so much based on the racist focus of the so-called "emergency," but on the long-term effects that Trump's actions will have on America and the sanctity of democracy as a whole.
First, the declaration sets an insanely dangerous precedent. National Emergencies were designed for just that, emergencies. To allocate federal funds away from the country's true needs in order to fulfill a political promise or perpetuate a political, partisan agenda is immoral at best, and unconstitutional at worst. The number of illegal immigrants residing in the United States has decreased from 12.2 million in 2006 to 10.7 million in 2016, reaching its lowest point in over a decade (in 2004, there were just over 10.7 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States). The number of illegal immigrants in the United States originating from Latin America decreased by just over 15% between the years 2006 and 2016.
Additionally, since 2005, the number of illegal immigrants residing in the United States for less than five years has decreased from 36% to 18%, while the number of illegal immigrants residing in the United States for more than ten years has risen from 38% to 66% indicating a large decrease in "new" illegal immigrants, meaning that the illegal immigrant population is largely immigrants from decades ago. In fact, the average illegal immigrant has resided in the United States for 14.8 years. This can hardly be considered a national emergency, and here is why...
A national emergency is defined as any situation in which "federal assistance is needed" to "save lives and to protect property and public health and safety," or to avoid a "catastrophe in any part of the United States." There is no direct threat to the United States, and, even if there was, the National Emergencies Act also states that a National Emergency must be "conditions beyond the ordinary," as the United States cannot be in a "constant state of national emergency." Therefore, the alleged security threat at the border could have stayed consistent and Trump would still have no legal basis to declare such a preposterous claim. But illegal immigration didn't even just stay consistent, it clearly decreased.
The position of the president now has its foot in the door of utilizing presidential power to override Congress, thus eliminating the system most sacred to democracy, checks and balances. Yes, Congress can work to block this. But, the president can always veto. Which of course could be avoided by a Congress override. But, with Republican control of the Senate, this is unlikely. Even if this is achievable, the president's power was never meant to match that of Congress. The position of president is one of a leader that (hopefully) is favorable to a majority of people. However, Congress is a representative body that, in my opinion, ultimately protects the rights of the people. I believe we are entering into an era of dying democracy, and this National Emergency declaration is the cherry on top.
What do you think of when you think about the idea of democracy? Free and fair elections? Independent press? Commitment to laws, norms, and the rule of law? It may or may not be a surprise to you that all three of these factors are being lowered into the ground as we speak. Our election process is severely corrupt. The electoral college undermines the popular vote, our campaign laws are so bogus that finance corruption is rampant and corporations pull the strings on puppet politicians, and gerrymandering sways elections. I wish I could go in depth on these issues, but I urge you instead to research them at your leisure, otherwise, this article would be pages and pages long. Nevertheless, I assume that you are somewhat aware of these corrupt election practices. And, of course, the fact Russia orchestrated the outcome of the American 2016 presidential election. So, no, free and fair elections do not exist in this country.
Well we've got independent press, right? No. Not really. While the press isn't directly state-controlled, most news corporations are owned by just a few large companies. The more the press industry monopolizes, the less diverse reporting we have. Additionally, with corporations practically running the nation through bribery and other immoral means, we risk news becoming more and more state controlled as the press continues to fall victim to capitalist consolidation. And, the independent press is currently under attack. President Trump and his administration may not have their hands in the newsrooms or be editing articles, but they are discrediting the truth. They are gaslighting the American people. This kind of control may be even worse than direct operation oversight. This kind of control creates a dictatorship. This kind of control tells Americans that their fellow citizens are out to get them and that the only person they can trust is Trump himself. That is called fear-mongering. It is despicable. It is evil. It creates a sort of hyper attachment to someone Americans think they can trust in fear that other Americans (who don't support Trump) are against them.
Trump has officially torn down every major societal and political norm we have in this nation and across the democratic, modern world. Look at how he gets along with dictators. That isn't a good thing, since he clearly fails to give democratic and ambivalent world leaders the same amity. This is dangerous. The democratic world has a sort of unspoken sense of collective security and loyalty to promoting and protecting their values. The United States is slowly proving to the world that we cannot quite be trusted to react to world events as a democratic state, as it is severely questionable if we even are a democratic state. This puts doubt in the minds of our allies, who may soon become former allies. Instead, we are shifting our friendliness in the direction of Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin. These are countries that it is not only immoral to ally with, but is dangerous for Americans and the world. North Korea and Russia aren't the most trustworthy alliances to enter into.
Additionally, by acting the way he does, President Trump ruins the respectability of his position. I don't need to get into the details, I'm sure you already know. But, Trump's public presentation is one of poor education, rudeness, greed, and laziness. His lack of experience is not refreshing, it doesn't "drain the swamp." Having career politicians in government isn't a bad thing as long as they are doing their job morally and constitutionally. Seasoned politicians are experienced, prepared, professional, and knowledgeable. Would you rather a doctor perform your surgery or a lawyer? People should be trained in the field that they work in. It's simple, really. The president shouldn't be a businessman (a failed one at that). This is just another way that corporations are infiltrating our system. Nevertheless, the very pillars of democracy have been knocked down. Our system is sinking, and this National Emergency declaration is the last drop of water that will put America's head below the water.