US President Donald Trump has used emergency powers to bypass Congress to provide funding for his controversial wall on the US-Mexico border.
Having reached an interim agreement with Democrats to open federal agencies following a 35-day government shutdown, Mr Trump declared a state of emergency to finance the $5.7 billion required for the border wall.
The decision has been met with sharp criticism from Democrat officials. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, described Mr Trump’s decision as ‘a gross abuse of the power of the presidency.’ Democratic controlled states California and New York are said to be planning legal action to block the move.
Fellow Republicans have had mixed reactions to Mr Trump’s decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed the decision, saying that Trump should take actions with ‘whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border.’ However Republican Senators Susan Collins, Marco Rubio, and prominent Trump critic Mitt Romney have raised concerns about the legality of the decision.
The Southern border wall was a key pledge of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, citing the need to protect US national security and to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, said ‘the President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country.’
Mr Trump has repeatedly voiced his concerns about a migrant crisis on the US-Mexico border, despite apprehensions of migrants by US border agencies being at their lowest level since 1971. However, the number of asylum claims has increased by 43 percent between 2017 and 2018.
Already, the border with Mexico has substantial lengths of pedestrian and anti-vehicle fencing built under George W Bush’s administration at a cost of $7 billion. At the time it had backing from prominent Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Mr Trump aims to build an upgraded concrete wall along the entire border, with the estimated cost of this project ranging from $12 to $70 billion.
A state of emergency declaration enables Mr Trump to bypass Congress to use additional powers, and is traditionally reserved for use in foreign policy crises. The declaration can be blocked by Congress, but with the Republicans controlling the Senate this would not necessarily pass, and Trump himself could then veto it. The US judiciary has the power to reverse the decision if it deems it unconstitutional.