United States Gifted With 33rd National Emergency By President Who Says It's Not Really An Emergency

from the nation-forced-to-hold-breath-until-president-given-what-he-wants dept

President Trump has declared a national emergency.

This is a thing presidents can do. And they've been doing it since 1979 when President Carter responded to a hostage situation in Iran by declaring a national emergency. We've spent four decades in perpetual emergency mode. With Trump's announcement, this makes American subject to 33 concurrent national emergencies, all of which grant the president a bunch of extra (and surprising!) powers, and encourage the government to start clawing back rights and privileges from the American people.

The declaration on the White House website is at least mostly coherent. It says there's a national security/humanitarian crisis at the southern border because, um, immigrants are still trying to migrate to the United States.

The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency. The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics. 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. 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. 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.

This statement may be coherent, but it's also mostly untrue. Southern border apprehensions are down to a quarter of the peak they reached in 2000. There have been increases in recent years of families seeking entry, but how that translates to a national security emergency is anyone's guess. The claim that immigrants blow off hearings is completely false. The DOJ's own data shows that 60-75% of non-detained immigrants show up for court appearances.

The other fudged claim -- somewhat muddied in the White House statement but somehow made more clear during the President's rambling press conference -- is the assertion that a porous border without The Wall/Fence is allowing drugs and trafficked humans to come pouring into the United States. The DEA has repeatedly stated that most drugs make their way into the US through legal points of entry. Why? Because it's way more efficient to move drugs with large vehicles, rather than a handful of mules walking through unguarded areas.

President Trump completely undercut his own national emergency declaration during his Rose Garden press conference. Trump said he didn't actually need to declare an emergency to secure border wall funds, but thought this would be faster than the usual appropriations process.

"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."

We are subject to a national emergency that isn't an emergency, based on assumptions made by a president who refuses to listen to the government agencies he's involving in his manufactured crisis. On top of that, this is only the second declared national emergency that actively involves the military. This should be of great concern to all Americans, including Trump supporters, as it involves the siphoning of resources usually deployed elsewhere in the world and directs them towards a domestic crisis that isn't actually a crisis.

The only other national emergency to involve the US military was the one George W. Bush issued three days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. We've all witnessed the explosive expansion of government power flowing from this declaration and other Congressional responses to the terrorist attacks. Here we are with no attacks, living in an era of unprecedented safety, and the president of the country has just invoked expansive powers to deal with an immigration influx that has been trending downward for nearly two decades.

Filed Under: donald trump, executive power, fence, immigration, military, moral panic, national emergency, wall


Reader Comments

The First Word

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 10:28am

    That said, I could see the argument for introducing a limit on how long they can last, and at that point a review must take place and a resolution be voted on to allow the emergency to continue, otherwise it expires.

    That is, in fact, exactly what I suggested to begin with.

    Again, no it has not. The reason why is because no one has actually used it yet.

    The bug is that anything has to be "used" to start with. Things should tend to fail safe. If something has to be actively done to push events in a certain direction, then that burden should be put on the unsafe direction, not the safe one.

    Probably a better way to look it it is that the system is always being "used", or equally validly never being "used". "The system" isn't some particular subset of the formal rules. It isn't even all of the formal rules. It's the total set of rules, customs, conditions, and predilections that lead to some set of actions and results.

    Decisions are always being made, and those decisions are always creating results. Take the emergency case: at every instant, the system is in a very real sense deciding to continue or not to continue the emergency. That decision is being made even if nobody is taking any action to make it.

    If you make the default decision dangerous, then you'll tend to get the more dangerous results. But you will always get some result.

    So it makes no sense to talk about the system as a whole not being used, as opposed to about specific mechanisms not being triggered during the continuous, unstoppable functioning of the system.

    So what you're saying then is that our entire system of government is incapable of preventing abuse of any kind and the whole thing should be thrown out.

    Straw man.

    What I'm saying is that if your scenario came to pass, the constitutional rules would have failed in that particular case. That doesn't mean they won't succeed in other cases. To be useless, they would have to never succeed at all.

    Almost every system will fail eventually, so it's a really bad idea to decide that every imperfect system is totally useless.

    Which is not, by the the way, to say that the checks and balances in the US couldn't be improved.

    What you want is some sort of automated system that automatically slaps government around when they abuse or overstep, what you consider, their powers and abilities.

    Another straw man.

    What I want is a structure that configures those powers so that, in the most probable cases, abusing them isn't the path of least resistance. Abuse should be one of the more difficult paths.

    It's not always easy, or even possible, to guess in advance which will be the safe path... but it is easy in the case of the emergency system.

    It's almost always an abuse for an emergency to continue for a long time. In the existing system, the emergency automatically continues once it's declared, so abuse is in fact the path of least resistance. That's one problem.

    It's not particularly hard to declare the emergency to begin with. One person can do it, at a low cost that doesn't really prove the kind of motivation that justifies the word "emergency". That's another problem.

    So, you're saying that Congress DOESN'T have the power to end or block any national emergency declaration? Because I'm pretty sure the law says otherwise.

    In the US, Congress has the power to do pretty much anything that's not outright unconstitutional, especially given a supermajority. Congress can dynamically change the rules for almost everything, so it almost always gets what it wants if it plays the game optimally. For that matter, Congress can sometimes get away with things that aren't even constitutional, because the system is imperfect in enforcing constitutional limits.

    However, "if Congress plays optimally" i's a big "if". It's really hard to actually get Congress to do much, even if you are IN Congress. Therefore, it's a bad idea to create a law that requires Congress to take positive action to avoid a reasonably predictable bad outcome.

    Then we're fucked because you can never remove the human equation from the system. As long as humans are involved in the system, the potential for them to do nothing and allow the system to be abused will always exist, and likely be exploited.

    People usually do nothing, especially if not given clear concentrated reasons. Therefore you should design the system so that , most of the time, the right thing will happen if people do nothing.

    Most of the time, the right thing is for an emergency NOT to continue. Furthermore, in the rare cases where continuing an emergency IS the right thing, you actually have more hope that people will be motivated enough to act, because it's an emergency, after all.

    Like I said, something can only "work" if it's used.

    As I said, the system as a whole isn't "used". That's totally the wrong way to think about these things. The system always running. Things are always happening, decisions are always being made. The actions of the people are part of the functioning of the system... and the inaction of the people is also part of the functioning of the system.

    The people don't sit outside the system somewhere and occasionally "use" it. The people are components that inhabit the continuously running system.

    The car could be in perfect working condition, the only reason it didn't do what you wanted it to do (get you from point A to point B) is because you didn't get in and start driving it.

    OBCarAnalogy

    Say it's important to you that I be somewhere. Maybe more important to you than it is to me. Say that you know I have a phobia about driving, or lack a driver's license, or something, and am unlikely to drive even if I have access to a car.

    Now say you ignore that, and give me a car as a means of getting there.

    If I don't show up, then the system you created for getting me there has failed.

    Whether it's your fault or my fault doesn't matter. What matters is that I won't be where you need me to be... and you could easily have prevented that by using the knowledge you had.


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.