Trump’s ‘Emergency’ Declaration Is Illegal

This was originally published by USA Today.

President Donald Trump declared a "national emergency" on Friday to pay for his border wall. In doing so, he's violating the law, subverting the Constitution and hurting American communities. That's why we're taking him to court.

We all know what an emergency really is. It's when something unexpected and dangerous happens that requires an immediate response. Trump himself admitted that there is no emergency when he said, "I didn't need to do this."

Trump added that his reason for the declaration was that he wanted to build the wall "much faster." But that's not how our democratic system works. Congress considered his desire for $5.7 billion in wall funding — and rejected it, instead appropriating $1.375 billion for new border barriers. The president cannot now try to get his way by unilaterally taking money that Congress has already budgeted for other things.

The Constitution assigns Congress the power of the purse. Members of Congress fight to secure funding for national priorities and their constituents’ needs during the yearly budget battles that dominate Washington for months.

The system is far from perfect, but it's the way it works in our democracy. If  Congress doesn't give him what he wants, the president can't do an end run by diverting public money for a campaign promise for which he has failed to secure funding.

Congress has granted the president limited power to spend federal funds without a congressional authorization if the president declares a national emergency. But it only allows the president to spend taxpayer money on military construction projects, like overseas air bases in wartime, "that are necessary to support such (emergency) use of the armed forces."

That's clearly not what's happening here. Besides the fact that there isn't actually an emergency, Trump's declaration doesn't say how a diversion of military construction funds is necessary to support the armed forces. No president has ever tried to use emergency powers to fund a massive and permanent domestic project like this.

Trump is also trying to take money from funds seized by the government through anti-drug operations and forfeitures. But Congress has passed laws dictating that this money must be used only for certain law enforcement purposes. It's not a slush fund that can be used to finance presidents' unfulfilled campaign promises.

We filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition to stop the irreparable harm their members will suffer if Trump's illegal border wall construction plan is allowed to proceed.

The coalition's members live near the border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A wall would heighten divisions in border communities and promote hostility towards immigrants and communities of color in border areas. It would also increase the risk of flooding and threaten residents' access to clean water, clean air and other natural resources.

In moving forward with an unauthorized border wall, the Trump administration is ignoring decades-old environmental and public safety laws that safeguard the places, species and values that Sierra Club members work to preserve.

Trump's emergency declaration is a blatant abuse of power in the service of his anti-immigrant agenda and a brazen attempt to subvert the constitutional separation of powers.

The federal treasury isn't a bank account that the president can just raid whenever he's in a bind. It's taxpayer money that the Framers specifically left in the hands of Congress. Trump is seeking to thwart Congress' will. Now we are asking the courts to give Trump another lesson in how the Constitution works.

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SgrA*

"The federal treasury isn't a bank account that the president can just raid whenever he's in a bind."

Oh, then we're all not dealing with the circumstances on the face of the matter. This is exactly what he feels he is destined to do, and like any emergency devoted to fleecing the very tax payers money he said he was too smart to have to himself pay -- he has the expertise of K Street and PACs to exploit any created situation.

Anonymous

So $135 billion IN TAXPAYER MONEY we spend on illegal aliens isn't an emergency? Or how about just in February alone 78,000 illegal aliens broke our laws and illegally crossed into our country? Or how about the 2,000 detained illegal aliens that are currently quarantined for infectious diseases such as the MUMPS? Or how about the 14,000 MINORS that were sent by their own parents to illegally cross into our country? How about the THOUSANDS of Americans that have suffered violence or death at the hands of an illegal alien? How about the hundreds of thousands of American Homeless VETS languishing on our streets and could use the shelter, food, healthcare, clothing, legal aid, education, $$ that is currently being redirected to people who have no right to be in this country. Or the MILLIONS of American children that live in poverty? Where is the ACLU for the Americans who suffer harm because of the failed immigration policies? Waiting for an answer....

Anonymous

Congress has already approved the wall by funding it in increments, for that reason President Trump wins in the Supreme Court because ‘National emergency ‘ is a subjective term and they will give the President the benefit of that determination.

Anonymous

ACLU is a joke, you didnt blink an eye lash when Obummer declared emergency after emergency to devert funds to other countries. Your words and action show the american people clearly whos side your really on :P

Darren

Do you always lie like that?

Anonymous

Thanks for explaining this so succinctly. I'll be sure to share this heavily over the next few weeks and probably months.

Anonymous

Alexander Hamilton was the lead architect in designing our Justice System. In explaining America’s model of government and system of justice, Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers that “constitutionality” should always supersede and outweigh past “legal precedent”. Hamilton also said prosecutors needed “obstacles to their success” to ensure an innocent until proven guilty system. That’s a huge distinction for any attorney. The vast majority of court cases are won or lost using “legal precedent”. Hamilton essentially said legal precedent could and should be overturned if the precedent is unconstitutional. This was the Justice System advertised and sold to the American people before the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified. Trump’s attorneys are well aware of this fact (documented in multiple chapters of the Federalist Papers). Maybe the top goal of ACLU attorneys should be to disbar DOJ attorneys advising Trump and those that worked under former AG Ashcroft? These DOJ - top legal minds in the USA - knowingly committed legal malpractice, from torture to Gitmo to immigration abuses,

Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

Isn't Alexander Hamilton the one that got shot by Raymond Burr?

BuildTheWall

Walls work. Build it strong and build it high. The small amount to pay for it up front will be saved over the next few years 100x’s over from reduced crime, drugs, and illegal people who are a burden on the tax payers. Additionally having a wall will funnel people through proper ports of entry and we can then use our saved resources to strengthen the security at our ports. Trump2020!

Shawn Keally

I agree with you.

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