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National Emergencies

An Emergency typically is defined as a combination of circumstances requiring immediate action.

Laws do not restrict national emergencies to meeting that definition. A national emergency can be anything the president declares to be one.

In this section we report on events related to national emergencies.

Related Issues

National Emergencies

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Supreme Court lets border wall proceed during appeals

2019-Jul-26By: Barry Shatzman

The Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to spend money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border while the case is being heard by federal courts.

A federal appeals court earlier this year blocked the money, saying that the administration's use of the money likely was unconstitutional, and that irreparable harm could come from building the wall before the case is resolved.

In the 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court said that the groups who filed the lawsuit may not have had the legal right to do so.

Justices voting to allow the money to be used were:

Justices voting to continue the injunction and prevent the money from being used were:

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Judge holds up money for border wall

2019-May-26  (Updated: 2019-Jun-29)By: Barry Shatzman

A federal judge has put a hold on building part of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that the Donald Trump administration had declared a national emergency in order to build.

The case currently being heard in a federal court of appeals.

Whether to issue the injunction essentially came down to two questions, according to Judge Haywood Gilliam. Did the president spend money specifically forbidden by Congress? And if so, was it for unforeseen circumstances?

Did Congress forbid money for the wall?

The Appropriations Clause of the Constitution allows a president to spend only money that Congress has allocated.

For the spending bill that effectively ended the 2018 government shutdown, Congress allocated $1.4 billion to construct pedestrian fencing along the border - specifying both the type of fencing and where it should be built.

The administration had requested $5.7 billion for constructing "approximately 234 miles of new physical barrier." That prompted Trump to declare a national emergency as a way to reallocate other money toward a border wall.

The administration argued that there was nothing specific in the appropriation that expressly excluded fence construction, and that the court should only consider whether Congress denied funding to the Department of Defense (DoD).

"This appears to have been the first time in American history that a President declared a national emergency to secure funding previously withheld by Congress," Gilliam wrote in his decision.

He wrote that allowing the administration to do that likely would violate Congress' Constitutional power to appropriate money. "To permit this massive redirection of funds under these circumstances likely would amount to an 'unbounded authorization for [the administration] to rewrite the federal budget... Under this interpretation, DoD could in essence make a de facto appropriation to DHS, evading congressional control entirely."

Was the situation unforseen?

The administration argued that building the wall is necessitated by "unforeseen military requirements," that were not foreseen until February 2019.

Unforeseen events in the past have been related to circumstances such as storm damage to military bases. In this case, however, money for the wall was requested by Trump in the 2019 appropriations bill. Congress just denied it.

"Defendants' argument that the need for the requested border barrier construction funding was 'unforeseen' cannot logically be squared with the Administration's multiple requests for funding for exactly that purpose dating back to at least early 2018," Gilliam wrote.

Trump also had touted his vision for a border wall throughout his 2016 presidential campaign.

The administration itself admitted they had been planning for a wall when acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News in February, "The President is going to build a wall... We'll take as much money as [Congress] can give us, and then we'll go off and find the money someplace else, legally, in order to secure that southern barrier. But this is going to get built, with or without Congress."

Update 2019-June-28: Gilliam updated his ruling, expanding protected areas and making the injunction permanent. He stated that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm in their ability to use the public land along the border. The injunction will remain in effect until the case is ruled on by the appeals court.

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Trump vetos resolution that would have ended his emergency

2019-Mar-15  (Updated: 2019-Mar-18)By: Barry Shatzman

President Trump has vetoed a resolution passed by Congress that would terminate the national emergency he declared at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This means the emergency declaration being used by Trump to build a wall between the two nations remains in effect for now.

Congress could override the veto, which would terminate the emergency. But that would require the votes of two-thirds of representatives and senators. The resolution passed by a smaller margin, so that seems unlikely.

Several lawsuits have been filed to challenge the emergency. Any one of them could end the emergency or result in an injunction - preventing Trump from acting on his emergency declaration until the case is decided by federal courts.

The 1976 National Emergencies Act (NEA) requires Congress to vote on revoking the emergency in six months, though that aspect of the law has never been tested.

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Lawsuits against Trump's border emergency declaration

2019-Mar-11By: Barry Shatzman

Several lawsuits have being filed to nullify the most recent national emergency declared by President Donald Trump. He declared it in order to build a wall along the country's southern border.

Most of the lawsuits spell out objections to whether it is an actual emergency, as well as claiming that the declaration violates the Constitution, because the president is changing the way money appropriated by Congress would be spent.

Each also lists how its various constituents would be damaged by the actions the administration is taking.

16 states

A coalition of 16 states has filed a lawsuit to stop Trump from reallocating money to build a border wall.

The states claim the action will cause them to lose millions of dollars from the federal government that would be used to counter illicit drug trafficking and other law enforcement programs. Funding for military construction projects in their states also would be diverted - affecting the states' economies.

Public Citizen

Public Citizen has filed a lawsuit on behalf of people who own land in Texas at the Mexican border. A border wall would be built on their property.

The lawsuit also is on behalf of the Frontera Audubon Society. Biologically-diverse land it manages at the border provides habitat for more than three-quarters of America's bird species. A wall would prevent some wildlife from reaching water at the Rio Grande, while trapping other animals when the river floods.

Center for Biological Diversity and Animal Legal Defense Fund

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed lawsuit claiming that biological diversity would be harmed by a border wall - possibly resulting in the local extinction of jaguars, ocelots, and other endangered species.

The suit claims that part of the money reallocated to a wall currently is used to fight organized wildlife trafficking.

CREW sues Justice Department for its opinion

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to provide documents regarding the legal authority of the president to invoke the emergency.

With few exceptions, such disclosure is required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Next steps

The various lawsuits are asking for an injunction to put the emergency declaration on hold until the cases are resolved by the courts.

Any injunction would put at least part of Trump's actions on hold - to whatever extent the injunction specifies.

Unless an injunction is issued, however, actions related to the national emergency can continue.

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Congress votes to end Trump national emergency

2019-Feb-22  (Updated: 2019-Mar-14)By: Barry Shatzman

Congress has passed a joint resolution to terminate the most recent national emergency declared by President Donald Trump. He declared it in order to build a wall along the country's southern border.

The 1976 National Emergencies Act (NEA) allows Congress to override national emergencies declared by a president. Doing so requires a joint resolution to be passed by both houses of Congress and then signed by the president.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Feb. 22. The Senate passed it on March 14.

Trump is expected to veto it. It would take two-thirds of representatives and senators to override the veto.

Even if Congress fails to override a Trump veto, the bill still could be used as evidence in the various lawsuits that have been filed to end the emergency, as it would show that Trump acted against Congress' spending intentions.

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Trump's national emergency will divert billions to border wall

2019-Feb-15  (Updated: 2019-Feb-25)By: Barry Shatzman

President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump has said he will use the emergency to allocate more than $6 billion for building a 200-mile barrier along the country's southern border.

He had requested more than $5 billion for the wall in the latest Congressional spending bill. Congress only provided $1.3 billion for border security. Though Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act - which put a final end to the longest government shutdown in the nation's history - he threatened to obtain the funding by declaring a national emergency.

In his proclamation, Trump claimed several general justifications....

o The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.

o The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch's exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years.

o In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending.

o If not detained, such aliens are often released into the country and are often difficult to remove from the United States because they fail to appear for hearings, do not comply with orders of removal, or are otherwise difficult to locate.

Claims that could justify a wall are false. Others don't justify a wall.

Other than marijuana, most illicit drugs from Mexico enter the country through legal ports of entry - smuggled in cars and trucks, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Ironically, more than $2 billion of the money Trump hopes to divert to build a wall is money that otherwise would be used to fight the illegal drug trade.

Immigrants (both undocumented or legal) commit less crime than native-born citizens. And border towns are among the least violent cities in the country.

Families coming to the country seeking asylum have been entering through official entry points.

Timing of "emergency" is suspect

Despite Trump's claims of an "invasion", illegal immigration from Mexico actually has been declining over the past 10 years.

Even Trump himself has contradicted the urgency of his action. "I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster," he said.

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Math shows border wall would be costly, insecure

2018-Dec-23By: (External links)

Based on Trump's detailed diagram of his slat wall, here is some advanced mathematics

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