ASU student leaders, lawmakers rebuke emergency declaration

A House resolution could block the declaration if it passes the Senate

Some students groups and experts at ASU rebuked President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border, following a recently held House vote to block the declaration.

The Democratic-led House passed a resolution on Tuesday with a 245-182 vote to block the declaration, which Trump issued on Feb. 15.

The declaration followed a showdown that lasted over a month and resulted in a partial government shutdown when Congress refused to fund a wall on the southern border, a key campaign promise Trump made in 2016. 

Supporters of Trump's action said that the move was necessary to make what they see as much needed progress on securing the border.

“If members of Congress care about separation of powers, both parties will work to prospectively institute real reforms that will return constitutional authority to the legislative branch," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) said in a press statement on Tuesday. "I voted against this resolution because I support President Trump’s efforts to secure the border using the current lawful means that Congress has ceded to the Executive Branch.”

But others voiced concerns about the implications of the president's move.

The declaration is unprecedented, said Paul Bender, a professor of law and dean emeritus at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and a constitutional law expert. Bender said the move was a clear attempt to circumvent the congressional rebuke of funding for the wall. 

“He asked Congress for something and they turned them down,” Bender said. “The fact that he just asked for money for the wall and the Congress said no suggests to me that he cannot use the emergency power.”

He said that if both chambers pass the measure and the president continues to ignore it, the circumstances could be dire for the Trump presidency. 

“If each house of Congress now passes that concurrent resolution saying, 'Get out of it. Don't continue to act as if there was an emergency,' that's very powerful,” Bender said. “Then he's faced with disobeying Congress."

ASU College Republicans President Alexander Phillips, who is a sports and media studies sophomore, said that while he supports the wall, he had concerns with how the president handled the situation.

“I don’t think it was professional to bully it through in this way. Above all else, I want the wall to get funded appropriately and legally,” Phillips said. “I don’t feel that it should set a precedent for future presidents regardless of their political affiliation.” 

Prior to signing the declaration, Trump seemingly made his own case against using emergency powers to fund the wall, when he said in a speech that he “could do the wall over a longer period of time.”

“I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump said, according to an official transcript of remarks he delivered on Feb. 15 before signing the declaration. 

Opponents of the wall took a more decisive stance against the move.

“The position of the ASU Young Democrats is that our organization does not support any federal funds for a border wall,” ASU Young Democrats President David Huff, a biological sciences and political science junior, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. 

“We believe that there needs to be real solutions to immigration reforms that allows good, hardworking immigrants to pursue the American dream, while also still developing ethical border security policies for domestic public safety," the statement said.

Huff also said that the issue should be of concern to both parties. 

“This executive overreach presents a new precedent for an expansion of executive authority for future presidents for their own policy agendas, Republican or Democrat,” Huff said in the Tuesday statement. “Today, Congress voted on a resolution to block President Trump's declaration. The ASU Young Democrats fully supports this decision to protect the constitutional authority of the legislative branch as intended by the Founding Fathers.”

Andrew Boyle, the Counsel in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, said it is likely that both chambers will pass the resolution to block Trump's emergency declaration. Multiple Republican Senators already voiced support for such a resolution, likely setting up a showdown between Congress and the president.

But once it gets there it almost certainly faces a veto, Boyle said, which would allow the emergency declaration to remain active as long as the president renews it. 

“If the emergency is not terminated by Congress and not terminated by the courts, then there's nothing stopping President Trump from renewing this emergency throughout however long he remains in office and nothing stopping anyone else who comes into office after him from continuing to renew the emergency,” Boyle said, unless there are changes to the National Emergencies Act.

Leah Sarat, an associate professor at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies who studies the intersection of religion and migration, said the problem with the declaration is a disconnect between reality and rhetoric.

Sarat said while Trump talks about smuggling, drug trade and crime when pushing for the border wall, the main pattern of human movement around the U.S. southern border right now is the migration of Central American families – two issues which she said are completely separate.

“I think that (Trump has) tapped into a public fear about those waves of people, but what many members of the public don't understand is they are mostly families pursuing legal channels," she said.

Overall, whether through an emergency declaration or conventional means, Sarat said a physical barrier will have little chilling effect on migration patterns. In fact, she said, it just increases the number of border crossings which migrants take through more dangerous routes.

"People literally ripping their children from their parents, even that didn't stem the flow of Central American migrants coming," she said. "Because they were literally looking at their choices and saying, 'I risked near certain death at home from gang activity or kidnapping or I risk at least a chance in the U.S.'"

The vote passed the House and heads to the Senate, where Democrats will only need four Republican votes to pass the resolution before it goes to Trump to sign.

Reach the reporter at or follow @isaacdwindes on Twitter.

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