The White House is reported to be preparing the ground for Donald Trump to declare a national emergency and has instructed the army’s corps of engineers to look into its appropriations for unspent money to fund the president’s wall, which he pitched in a Thursday visit to the border.
Negotiations with Democrats are stalemated, a compromise package mooted by a group of Republican lawmakers has failed to find traction with the White House, and with few other proposals on the table, talk of a national emergency has gained ground, especially among Trump’s allies.
Trump himself is not averse to it as he has made clear over the past few days, but he has sought to demonstrate a preference for resolving the stalemate through negotiations, even as he walked out of the last round, ending it with a perfunctory “bye-bye” because it was a “total waste of time”.
“I’m prepared for anything,” he told reporters in a visit to the southern border in McAllen, Texas. “We can declare a national emergency.”
During the border visit, he sought to drum up support for the wall by doubling down on a narrative of a humanitarian and security crisis, which has been called out repeatedly for exaggeration and misrepresentation of facts, and through emotional endorsements from relatives of a victim of crimes by illegal immigrants.“The way he was killed, what my family’s going through right now, I do not want any other family law enforcement person to go through,” said Reggie Singh, brother of Ronil Singh, the Fijian American police officer of Indian ancestry killed by an illegal immigrant in California on Christmas Eve. Singh was 33.
“It breaks my heart and no one should ever ever have to go through that,” Singh added and expressed his support, and his family’s, to any effort and initiative to prevent these incidents.
Trump’s border visit, however, did not help his case in Washington DC, where Democrats controlling the House of Representatives remained opposed to the wall and Republicans who control the Senate, saw their compromise package rejected by the president before it got off the starting block.
“Time for President @realDonaldTrump to use emergency powers to build Wall/Barrier,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally and a prime mover of the failed Republican bid for comprise, wrote on Twitter shortly after it became clear his compromise initiative was doomed.
“I hope it works,” he added, ominously signalling the potholes ahead.
The White House request to the Pentagon is focussed on money already allocated, but not “obligated” to the engineering corps for projects meant to minimise the impact natural disasters on Puerto Rico, Texas and some other areas that are still dealing with the aftereffects of recent catastrophes.
Opposition on humanitarian grounds, questioning how money could be diverted from helping victims of natural catastrophes, has already started. And legal challenges in courts are expected to follow.