Trump faces lawsuit over usage of emergency powers
The US National Emergencies Act of 1976 provides President Trump authority to declare a national emergency.
Sixteen US states led by California sued President Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare a national emergency.
Trump was sued on President’s day, 18 February, when thousands of people rallied to protest against the national emergency.
"We're suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds," said California's attorney general.
On 15 February, Trump decided to declare a national emergency to obtain funds for building a wall along the US-Mexico border. Trump said, "I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster.” He added, “I expect to be sued”.
Three Texas landowners and an environmental group filed the first lawsuit on 16 February. The basis for the lawsuit is that Trump’s move violates the constitution and infringes on property rights.
Trump’s comments show that he knew he didn’t have to declare invoking an emergency. It may also be used as evidence against the White House as there is no national emergency.
Trump’s obsession with the southern-border wall
No one can accuse Trump of not keeping his word. Well, not yet.
One of his 2016 presidential campaign promises was to build a wall along America’s southern border. His justification was that the wall will help stem the flow of illegal immigrants and dangerous drugs into the country.
Illegal border crossings have declined drastically over the years. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the total number of apprehensions in the south-western border stood at 303,916 in 2017, the lowest since 1971. In fact, the largest number of illegal migrants are those who stay in the country after their visas expire.
During his speech on 15 February, he said, “Majority of the drugs can’t go through ports of entry. They go through areas where there is no wall.” Ironically, 90% of heroin seized was from legal border entries, according to data from CBP.
Trump had asked Congress to fund the wall at over USD 5 billion. He was denied this amount twice.
What happened when Trump was denied funds?
The first time the US Congress denied the president’s insistence to fund the wall, it resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown. The Congress had approved an appropriations bill that rejected his demand for USD 5.7 billion to construct the wall.
The shutdown, which began in mid-December last year, was the longest ever in American history. Standard and Poor’s, an American financial services company, estimated that the shutdown cost the economy over USD 3 billion.
On 25 January 2019, Trump endorsed a stopgap bill which allowed the government to reopen for three weeks.
To avoid another government shutdown, Congress agreed to the construction of physical barriers along the US-Mexico border. It provided USD 1.3 billion for fencing along the southern border but explicitly said the funding could not be used to build Trump’s proposed wall.
However, it was not enough to stop Trump. Last week in El Paso, Texas, when Trump addressed over 6,500 supporters, he said, “Just so you know, we’re building a wall”. A Wall Street Journal poll found that 96% of Trump’s political base support the border wall.
What happens now?
The US National Emergencies Act of 1976 provides President Trump the authority to declare a national emergency. He must decide on a statutory authority that will get the resources and funds to build the wall.
The lawsuit may slow down his efforts to build the wall. A litigation by members of Congress will have to focus on checking the constitutional validity of a national emergency, especially if Trump attempts to shift funds from various departments for the construction of the wall.
Additionally, the proposed wall is to be built on private property which can allow owners to challenge the usage given that there is no actual need for the wall.