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Trump Declares National Emergency to Build the Wall


President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Trump Declares National Emergency to Build the Wall
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American President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency so that he can get the money needed to build a wall along the nation’s border with Mexico.

The move is seen as a way to go around Congress. It is sure to face opposition from legislators.

Speaking from the White House, Trump said he is declaring the national emergency because of, in his words, “an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”

Trump added that he is planning to use money from the military and other parts of the government to pay for the building of the wall.

As a presidential candidate, Trump often said that Mexico would pay for such a wall.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the president “will have access to roughly $8 billion worth of money that can be used to secure the southern border.”

Trump had demanded $5.7 billion for the wall. But Congress, which is powered with making spending decisions, only provided $1.4 billion for barriers.

A woman walks on the beach, Jan. 9, 2019, next to the border wall topped with razor wire in Tijuana, Mexico.
A woman walks on the beach, Jan. 9, 2019, next to the border wall topped with razor wire in Tijuana, Mexico.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer quickly denounced the move as an “unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist.”

The two leaders released a joint statement while Trump was still giving his speech. They said, “The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

Trump admitted that his declaration of a national emergency will face opposition in the courts. He said, "Sadly, we'll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we'll win."

National Emergencies Act

The president defended his decision, saying other presidents have declared national emergencies in the past.

In 1976, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, which gave presidents special powers during a crisis. Congress can end a state of emergency with a joint resolution and the president’s signature. If the president vetoes the resolution, Congress would need two-thirds of lawmakers to vote to end the declaration.

American presidents have declared national emergencies 59 times since 1976.

President Jimmy Carter made the declaration as Iran took American hostages in 1979. Ronald Reagan used the power to ban trade with Nicaragua in 1985.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush blocked financial dealings with Iraq. In 1996, Bill Clinton used the power after two airplanes were shot down near Cuba. George W. Bush declared a national emergency after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

And President Barack Obama used the special power in 2011 to freeze the assets of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.

Trump has declared national emergencies three other times: in December 2017 against Myanmar generals for their part in the Rohingya refugee crisis; in September 2018 against persons related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election; and in November 2018 after the Nicaraguan government acted against protesters.

But until Friday, no American president in history had used the power to get additional money to pay for projects without the support of Congress.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

secure - v. to make (something) safe by guarding or protecting it

enshrined - v. to remember and protect (someone or something that is valuable, admired, etc.)

purse - n. an amount of money that government has available to use

remedy - n. a way of solving or correcting a problem

sue - v. to bring a lawsuit against someone

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