POTUS Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the U.S. Southwest border on Thursday amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis and government shutdown over Democrats’ refusal to sign off on a $5.7 billion funding request for border barrier construction.
The president will travel to McAllen, Texas, a border city of about 143,000, on the Rio Grande River as he continues to contemplate whether to declare the situation along the border a national emergency.
Such a declaration would allow him to use money earmarked for the military and already approved by Congress to begin construction of portions of the border wall.
The president’s visit comes a day after he walked out of a White House meeting with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, declaring the meeting “a total waste of time” after Pelosi said she would not agree to his wall funding request.
Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
POTUS is expected to be joined by his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Fox News reported.
Few details of the trip have been reported. However, a local newspaper has reported that advanced teams of Secret Service agents have locked down the Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas that “sits along the Rio Grande in the shadow of the Anzalduas International Bridge and is frequently patrolled by Border Patrol agents attempting to intercept those crossing into the country illegally.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the visit on Monday, saying the president would “meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”
Reports have suggested that POTUS will use the visit to Texas as a way to help him determine whether a national emergency declaration is necessary.
Democrats and some ‘moderate’ Republicans have suggested that the president does not have the constitutional authority to make such a declaration.
But the National Emergencies Act grants presidents broad authority to make such determinations. Also, a number of federal laws give him authority to repurpose existing funding for wall construction.
One statute, 33 U.S. Code § 2293 – “Reprogramming during national emergencies,” allows POTUS to “apply the resources of the Department of the Army’s civil works program, including funds, personnel, and equipment, to construct or assist in the construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of authorized civil works, military construction, and civil defense projects that are essential to the national defense.”
Another law, 10 U.S. Code § 2808 – “Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or national emergency,” grants the secretary of defense, during a presidentially declared emergency, to use “funds that have been appropriated for military construction” for the purpose of undertaking “military construction projects.”
If the president does make his declaration, it is expected to be challenged with lawsuits. However, it’s not clear that federal courts have any jurisdiction in matters of national emergencies, and in any event, the White House likely expects to be challenged. — Jon Dougherty
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