Saturday, February 15 marks one year since President Trump manufactured “a national emergency” regarding the southern border. Coming on the heels of Trump’s unpopular government shutdown over border wall funding, the President used a legal provision related to the conduct of war to declare a national emergency, using it as the pretext for raiding billions of dollars Congress appropriated for the military to build and replace existing sections of the border wall.
Despite majority votes in both the House and Senate in opposition to this attack on the constitutional primacy of Congress with respect to appropriations, the majority of GOP Senators and the Supreme Court have acquiesced in this extraordinary manipulation of appropriated funds and emergency provisions to allow the accelerated construction of the wall to go forward.
Below are five of the key points to remember about Trump’s border wall obsession as we reach the one year anniversary of the fake national emergency:
- Border Wall and Obsession is Perfect Encapsulation of Trump. For Trump and his core supporters, the border wall is not just a physical structure, it’s a metaphor and a politically-driven obsession. They want to send a clear message that it’s time to keep out ‘those brown people’ and preserve power and privilege for certain white people. Well, for the rest of us, Trump’s border wall is a metaphor, too. It is the perfect encapsulation of Trump and his presidency: narcissistic, mendacious, wasteful, corrupt, racist, authoritarian, ineffective and ridiculous. The news that Trump insisted on installing a self-congratulatory plaque commemorating 100 miles of border wall captures the larger self-congratulatory motivations that’s driving this whole stupid focus on the border wall. It’s Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” moment.
- American Taxpayers’ Tab for Border Wall: More than $20 Billion and Counting, Mostly at Military’s Expense. Instead of Mexico paying for the wall, as Trump infamously promised, American taxpayers are paying for the wall and their tab is up to $18.4 billion and counting. Yet only 27.7% of the wall funding has been appropriated by Congress. This $18.4 billion figure doesn’t even include Trump’s new White House budget, which contains an additional $2 billion request for border wall construction. And the White House has pressured the Defense Department to make available even billions more in additional Pentagon funds for the wall (such as the new announcement that the Pentagon will divert an additional $3.8 billion in funding, including more than $1 billion from the National Guard reserves equipment budget). And keep in mind, wall maintenance alone will cost billions annually as well.
- The Wall Is Wasteful, and Offensive and Just Plain Ineffective – Thwarted By Saws, Ropes, Tunnels, Wind and Water. Keep in mind, the border wall itself is and remains a ridiculous policy idea – wasteful, offensive, and just plain ineffective. Recent weeks have brought a series of reminders that the supposedly “impenetrable” border wall could be cut through with a cheap saw, climbed over with a rope or ladder, knocked over with a stiff wind, and that it must be left open for months at a time during the summer because of potential flood damage.
- The Impact on Border Communities: Seizing Private Landowners’ Property, Breaking Up Congregations, and Trampling on Sensitive and Sacred Land. Jared Kushner’s “new assignment” is overseeing wall construction, including seizing private land from border landowners in Texas who aren’t happy about losing their property. A December Washington Post story interviewed military veterans, longtime Texans, and Trump 2016 voters who were, quite understandably, not happy with the news that they were set to lose their property to the border wall. The negative impact goes beyond private landowners – wall construction is threatening environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas, destroying sacred Native American lands, running right through communities and set to separate a nearly 100-year old Rio Grande Valley church from its congregation.
- The Wall is Unpopular, Among the Majority of Americans and Border Residents Alike. The border wall is unpopular among most Americans, with approximately 60% of the public opposed. During Trump’s presidency, the wall has grown more unpopular (see this related Cato Institute assessment). Notably, the broad opposition to the wall includes those most directly impacted – a November 2019 poll of residents in four southern border states found that 58% of respondents “strongly oppose” or “oppose” additional federal spending to build more border walls and fencing.
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