It shut down the government. It has deeply divided Washington and the American voting electorate.
On Feb. 15, 2019, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border calling for the construction of a border wall. This effectively would tap into and allocate defense reserve funds to pay for a barrier between the United States and Mexico.
On March 14, 2019, the House and Senate voted to reject the national emergency, setting up Trump’s first veto which he used the next day. The Senate will likely not have sufficient votes to override Trump’s veto, but the division over a border wall in D.C. still exists.
The heart of the border wall debate is the following question: is there a crisis on the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico?
Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike would mostly agree that if there was, allocation of funds would be justified and would warrant the need for more funds, more border personnel and newer technology. Hence, the subject to examine is the severity or existence of the “crisis” surrounding the southern border.
It’s important to first note that the president does hold the authority to claim a national emergency if he deems it as stated in the National Emergencies Act. It says that “during the period of a national emergency, of any special or extraordinary power, the President is authorized to declare such national emergency.” It later states the reasons and application for termination to which the current Congress used and enacted.
The first thing to examine is total apprehensions at the border. Since 2001, illegal crossings and apprehensions have declined. In 2018, the border agents apprehended about 467,000. So far in the fiscal year 2019, apprehensions are up ninety percent. Since 2008, Obama and Trump Administrations have deployed more agents and have invested in more technology to help border agents.
The intent of Trump’s national emergency is to avert this crisis once and for all by making apprehensions easier for agents. On top of this, Customs and Border Protection data shows that across the country in the fiscal year 2018, immigration officials encountered 16,831 “criminal aliens” and would be flagged by officials at legal ports of entry or airports as being “inadmissible” into the United States.
According to the most recent figures, the Department of Homeland Security claims that about 20 percent of illegal border crossers make it into the country, adding to the already massive illegal population in the U.S. of about 12 million.
The intent of a border wall is to force illegal immigrants into a port of entry. This allows for the border agents to inspect the immigrants more effectively and efficiently. More drugs have been seized at the port of entries than not, showing the success of the border entries.
A recent survey conducted by the National Border Patrol Council in 2018 concluded that “Border Patrol agents say they can’t be much clearer: They want more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Said best by the Chief of the United States Border Patrol, “We certainly do need a wall. Talk to any border agent and they will tell you that.”
One must respect the individuals on the spot of the crisis and cannot ignore their call for action. This border wall represents something greater than simply a barrier. It has become a symbol of a crisis which must be averted.