President Sets A Bad Precedent

Trump’s state of emergency over a manufactured crisis has real human and economic costs

February 15, 2019

Earlier today, President Trump declared a national state of emergency over what he called a “crisis” at the U.S. southern border. By taking this action, Trump will be diverting government money away from legitimate crises and toward a manufactured border crisis.

Bad Precedent

Trump’s action has received criticism from both sides of the aisle for setting a bad precedent regarding presidential use of authority. While the National Emergencies Act of 1976 grounds the President’s authority to declare national emergencies, it was intended to allow the President broad authority to act in the country’s best interest in the case of emergency -- a real emergency. However, in this case it is structurally weak, where Trump is invoking it with the expressed purpose of fulfilling a campaign promise to his base of supporters, not to respond to an actual crisis.

A Manufactured Crisis

There is no national security crisis at the border. In announcing the so-called emergency, the President claimed the action was necessary to confront “an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” Of course, the threat posed by immigrants, whether documented or not, is no crisis at all. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics show irregular border crossings are at their lowest point in years, and that non-citizens make up a meager 6% of the total prison population. Even still, the vast majority of that small amount are in federal prison for crimes only immigrants can commit, like illegal entry and illegal entry after removal.

The other side of the coin is the very real crises immigrants are fleeing, and from which government resources are being diverted. Central American migrants escaping environmental catastrophe, gang violence and individual persecution undertake a dangerous journey to seek safety in the United States. In advancing a white supremacist and nationalist policy agenda, this administration has turned its back on these migrants and ignored the United States’s historic role in causing their home countries’ crises. There are a myriad of other legitimate crises President Trump is ignoring to build his needless and immoral border wall, such as the (contrary to the President’s thinking) very real climate crisis, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, the water quality crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the gun violence epidemic.

Dehumanization of Immigrants

The President engaged in the same dehumanizing and fear-mongering which has historically preceded gross injustices. In his comments today alone, the President referred to the caravans of immigrants and asylum seekers as “monstrous”, and to their journey seeking refuge in this country as “an invasion.” The vast majority of those who arrive at the U.S.’s southern border are fleeing crises and conflicts of their own, whether economic or environmental. More importantly, they are human beings whose needs should be afforded basic human decency.  

Trump’s declaration has already received formidable challenge from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as advocacy groups like the ACLU. Further, California Governor Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra have announced their intention to sue President Trump over this “national emergency.” We condemn this administration’s gross misuse of power, and will join any effort to oppose their attempt to reallocate government funds from those in need and toward a totem of racism and xenophobia.


Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is a national nonprofit working to promote and strengthen American pluralism by increasing understanding and improving policies that impact American Muslims.



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