President Donald Trump is open to compromising on his demand for border security funding, but if attempts at negotiation fail, he will likely declare a national emergency and redirect other federal funding to border wall construction, the president said Jan. 10.
“We’re either going to have a win, make a compromise, because I think a compromise is a win for everybody, or I will declare a national emergency,” Trump said while speaking with media in front of the White House before departing for a visit to the border in Texas.
No Progress on Talks
Trump’s disagreement with congressional Democrats on the border security funding prevented the passage of a funding bill for about quarter of the federal government, which ran out of money Dec 22.
Trump walked away from a Jan. 9 border security meeting with congressional leaders at the White House after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t give Trump money for the wall, even if he agreed to quickly end the shutdown.
“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter after the meeting.
Over the past week, Trump has floated the idea of declaring a national emergency over the situation at the border.
“This is a crisis,” he said Jan. 10. “You have human trafficking, you have drugs, you have criminals coming in, you have gangs.”
Border Patrol apprehensions were up by about 30 percent in October and November combined, compared to the total apprehensions in August and September.
Yet Trump said the border security has been in a state of crisis for years, pointing to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who called it a “humanitarian crisis” when the southern border was flooded with unaccompanied minors and families from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala in 2014. That fiscal year, some 69,000 minors and 68,000 families were apprehended at the border.
In fiscal 2018, the Border Patrol apprehended more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors and more than 107,000 families.
One in three female migrants were sexually assaulted on the journey north through Mexico to the U.S. border, according to a congressional briefing by the administration. Other estimates, such as those by Amnesty International, have put the percentage of female migrants who were raped on the journey as high as 80 percent.
The only way to dissuade people from making the dangerous trip to the border and trying to cross illegally is a wall, or a steel fence, Trump has argued.
“There’s nothing that can’t be penetrated,” he said, adding that the steel slat fence is “very, very hard to penetrate.”
Democrat leaders have stated their reason for opposing the wall project is because it is “ineffective” and “expensive.” However, in the past, many of them supported multiple bills that proposed border barriers similar to what Trump is asking for.
Border security authorities back Trump on the effectiveness of border walls.
The National Emergency Option
A national emergency declaration would expand Trump’s powers to use federal funds for pressing issues. Specifically, it allows him to redirect certain Defense Department funding and resources for use in civil works and military construction projects.
“If we declare a national emergency, we have a tremendous amount of funds,” he said.
Trump would need to keep the wall construction within those bounds.
“I would like to do the deal through Congress,” Trump said, later adding, “I would be nice if we can make a deal, but dealing with these people is ridiculous. I don’t know if they know how to make a deal.”
If the negotiations with Democrats fall through, however, Trump appeared nearly certain to use his executive powers as a last resort.
“If we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms,” he said.
Trump acknowledged that such executive action may get challenged in courts, but said he’s “prepared for anything.”
“We would win that suit I believe very quickly,” he told reporters in Texas after his border visit.
‘They Have Gone Crazy’
Trump blamed the rocky wall negotiations on the Democratic Party’s getting hijacked by its far-left wing, which doesn’t employ even the brand of border security rhetoric brandished in the past by old-guard Democrats.
“They could stop this problem in 15 minutes if they wanted to. I really believe, now, that they don’t want to. I really believe that. I really believe that they don’t care about crime. I really believe this,” Trump said. “The Democrats don’t care about crime. They’ve been taken over by a group of young people, who frankly, in some cases—I’ve been watching—I actually think they’re crazy. But they’ve been taken over by a group that’s so far left, I really don’t think they care about crime.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats on the progressive far-left have gone as far as calling for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency is not only responsible for deportations but also investigates gangs, cartels, and other transnational criminal enterprises.
ICE removed nearly 6,000 known or suspected gang members in fiscal 2018.
Pelosi’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.