The national effort against COVID-19 should be our singular focus during these trying times. Yet President Trump’s border wall obsession continues, taking away resources and personnel that are critical to containing this epidemic.
As a must-read op-ed in The Hill from Gail Emrick, executive director of the Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center, reminds us:
The Trump administration has a staggering $18.4 billion border wall budget, most of it diverted from other federal agencies’ programs that are intended to protect national security. Wall construction money should instead be used to save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19.
At the same time, the administration has undermined our capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak through staff and budget cuts. In 2018, the administration disbanded the National Security Council’s pandemic unit, and have also disastrously diminished the Center for Disease Control staffing.
Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, puts it in context:
Juxtaposed against a severe lack of tests, a rising death rate, and crashing economy, the border wall stands as a symbol of waste, fraud, and xenophobia, clear for all the world over to see. As the Trump administration is hemming and hawing over a $1 billion price tag for desperately needed ventilators in American communities, they want to spend twenty fold that on an unneeded border wall.
Attorneys General from eight states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Virginia) recently filed a motion calling for “an immediate permanent injunction” against the Trump administration’s diversion of $3.8 billion for the border wall, raided from appropriated military budgets by the Trump administration for the National Guard and others who would be helpful in the Covid-19 crisis. As a press release from the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra states:
More than 20 percent, $890 million, of the diverted taxpayer funds had been allocated to National Guard units across the country for the purchase of equipment critical to responding to natural disasters and other emergencies … The funds were originally appropriated for the states’ National Guard units to enable them to provide public safety support in times of emergencies, including natural disasters like wildfires and public health crises such as the current pandemic. For example, the equipment sought by the California National Guard would support emergency care that could ‘significantly improve patients’ chances of survival’ during disaster relief operations. Given the current national emergency, it is more important than ever to stop the Trump Administration’s illegal actions to fund an unauthorized wall at the border.
Time is up. The administration must divert desperately-needed funding from Trump’s wasteful and unnecessary wall; and should they fail to do so, they are choosing to put their political agenda ahead of hundreds of thousands of lost human lives.