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Trump's Emergency Action on the Border Wall Stinks All the Way Down

There is no good justification for what the president is doing. Republicans and conservatives need to call him out on it.

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President Trump has just announced he is invoking national-emergency powers to fund building of a wall on the Southern border. In a rambling talk at the White House, he cited repeatedly "virtual invasion" of the country by drugs and people as the reason to do this.

When he first became president, there was a lot of talk about not "normalizing" his actions and attitudes. As Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) notes, those concerns now extend to the president's expected declaration of a national emergency to facilitate building a wall along the Southern border:

Paul is protesting both the budget deal that was passed yesterday and the president's declaration of a national emergency, and his protest needs to repeated again and again. (For more background on the history of national emergencies, read Elizabeth Nolan Brown and Joe Seyton.)

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It also needs to repeated again and again that there is no national "emergency" on the border, and certainly none that requires Trump to route around Congress. The president's partisans can come up with arguments that this is all just politics as usual, but his behavior is an affront to beliefs in rational discourse and limited government.

Trump's discourse about what's happening on the border is completely unsupported by facts. Border apphrehensions are one-quarter of what they were in 2000; illegal drugs and asylum seekers mostly enter the country through ports of entry, not vast stretches of empty, unguarded land; his claims about epidemic human trafficking are made up out of thin air; and places such as El Paso show that walls don't lead to reductions in crime in border cities (which are remarkably safe). The president and his champions are fear-mongering as a way of trying to shut down rational debate.

In this, they have been helped by many Democrats and moderate Republicans who insist the key issue is "border security" rather than facilitating people's ability to migrate peacefully and legally.

Regardless of how the inevitable court cases play out, using national emergency powers for something like this is exactly the sort of abuse of executive authority that used to make conservatives go bananas. (Remember all the anger at Barack Obama over his immigration orders?) It stinks all the way down, too: Some of the money that will be rerouted to pay for the wall will come from asset forfeiture, much of which has simply been stolen from people haven't even been charged with crimes. Beyond trying to stop people from entering the country, Trump repeatedly stressed a major reason for the wall is to perpetuate the war on drugs, which is a failure from every reasonable perspective.

It's good to see Rand Paul call out his own party's leader for failing to adhere to principles more important than partisanship or momentary political advantage. It will be better yet to see large number of Republicans and conservatives doing this. The failure to do so won't "normalize" Trump but it will work to normalize presidential overreach.