Donald Trump on Friday (15 February) declared a national emergency over the US-Mexico border. He did this in order to commandeer more funding for his wall.
This declaration allows Trump to bypass Congress and divert federal funds towards his wall.
He also signed a spending bill today, avoiding another government shutdown. The spending bill allotted money for border security, though not a wall. Trump will now reportedly seek an extra $6.5 billion in funding.
What is a national emergency?
Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. It allows the president to declare a ‘national emergency’ at their discretion, with no specific definition of what constitutes an emergency.
By declaring a national emergency the president can benefit from specialized laws, such as access to previous inaccessible funds.
A national emergency runs out in a year, unless a president renews it, which they can also do indefinitely.
Fifty-nine national emergencies have been declared under this act, with the US still in 31 continuing declared states of emergency.
How does this affect LGBTI immigrants?
Trump declared the national emergency for his border wall, which is at the core of his anti-immigration rhetoric and policies.
Many of the refugees seeking asylum from Central and South America are LGBTI people. They’re escaping discrimination and violence in their home countries.
LGBTI people of color face disproportionate rates of discrimination and violence worldwide. This is especially true in countries lacking protections or rights for LGBTI people, which many of these countries do.
In 2018, a transgender woman seeking asylum from the violence she faced in Honduras due to her gender identity, died in the care of US immigration.
Currently, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is holding over 100 trans people.
Responses and lawsuits
Some Republicans, like Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham support Trump’s decision and blame Democrats for it.
Others, however, are more critical of the president.
Most of the criticism is coming from Democrats and civil rights organizations.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who’s running for president, tweeted the federal government should be focused on ‘actual emergencies that plague our nation — like climate change or health care access — not playing politics in order to build a wasteful border wall’.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared his state will seek to block the declaration in court.
‘This “emergency” is a national disgrace, and the blame lays solely at the feet of the President,’ he said in a statement. ‘He plans to shut down and shift funds used by California law enforcement that run counter-narcotics operations and fight drug cartels to build his wall.
‘Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court.’
The ACLU also declared an intention to sue:
BREAKING: We’re suing President Trump over today’s blatantly illegal declaration of a national emergency.
There is no emergency. This is an unconstitutional power grab that hurts American communities. We’ll see him in court.
— ACLU (@ACLU) February 15, 2019
As Newsom stated, Trump will be diverting money away from other places in order to fund the wall. One of those places is military construction funding.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) called the decision ‘appalling’. He further described it as ‘an egregious example of the President putting his political agenda ahead of the interest of the United States’.