When I heard that President Donald Trump was going to declare a national emergency, my first thoughts were, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” But then again, I was not surprised that he would call a national emergency on an issue that was irrelevant and distant from the reality of things in the southern border.
“Trump’s recent declaration of a national emergency to appropriate funds for his so-called wall may backfire on him,” said Richard Kamei, assistant division chair of the social science department.
The National Emergencies Act of 1976 (NEA) was passed by Congress, giving the president the ultimate power to declare a state of emergency in an executive order, during a time of threat to the nation. In addition, the president would be able to declare such a state, bypassing the approval of Congress. However, an abuse of the usage of the NEA can face a severe rebuke from Congress and the federal courts.
Brennan Center of Justice, a non-partisan law and public policy institute within New York University, reported that a total of 58 national emergencies have been declared since the passage of the federal law, 31 of which are still in effect. The most recent and perhaps significant national emergency was one relating to Transnational Organized Crime, declared by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Of the prior executive orders, President Trump’s is the most divisive. Six out of 10 Americans are against President Trump declaring a “national emergency” over the southern border, according to a survey conducted recently by PBS NewsHour, NPR and the Marist Poll.
And yet, President Trump is still insisting and persisting that a wall will “guarantee” safety against criminals and “caravans” filled with asylum seekers.
“The whole concept of national emergency and a wall are fear tactics to stop those seeking refugee status in the future,” explained Hoover Zariani, manager of the Multicultural & Community Engagement Center at GCC.
To give a sobering perspective, Cameron Hastings, a political science professor at GCC mentioned that “the positive outcome of this is [that] the status quo will probably remain the same for right now,”
Trump further neglects that this unsubstantiated “national emergency” is nothing more than a political stunt because the efficiency of the wall is questionable at its core. Zariani argues that “there will [n]ever be a wall like the one most people imagined (all the way across the border).”
Furthermore, in light of the current national emergency, a precedent can be set that may result in future administrations using the NEA for their own political interests and advances. Kamei theorised that due to “how dysfunctional our political system is at present time; the application of the National Emergencies Act will increase in the future for matters, such as acts to expand rights for undocumented immigrants.”
Declaring such frivolous national emergency, affects not only the relationship between immigrant communities and the federal government but also harms the negotiations behind closed doors between Congress, DACA recipients, stakeholders and communities on passing any new and comprehensive legislation on immigration reform. Furthermore, many political pundits and analysts “are asserting that it sets a precedent for Democrats to declare national emergencies, such as catastrophic climate change and gun violence, when a Democrat regains the presidency,” Kamei noted.
Documented or not, immigrants are vital to the fabric of American society. A report conducted by the Center of American Progress, a public policy think tank in Washington DC, that 18 percent of the current immigrants are entrepreneurs and 7.5 percent of the foreign-born population are self-employed. Immigrants show that diversity embodies strength in our communities. Sharing and learning about different cultures and heritages makes us sophisticated and refined.
Our future is hanging in the balance and if the federal government could have done something about immigration reform sooner rather than later, this situation would have not gone to the pits of hell. “Actually, [I] don’t think the emergency executive order itself will have much effect on DACA,” Hastings added. She prefaced her statement by saying that “it creates a situation where there will be little to no movement on immigration policy as a whole, at least until we see the 2020 election.”
Instead, Congress, immigration groups and organizations must begin negotiations on what legislation should be introduced to Congress for the better future of undocumented immigrants. It is up to us as voters and citizens of this country to vote for our future representatives and senators who will represent our districts and our state in the 117th Congress.