President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the United States-Mexico border security on Feb. 15 in order to access more than $5 billion to build the border wall after Congress denied him the funds.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” Trump said in a televised statement on Friday, reported by The New York Times. “It’s an invasion. We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
In the same announcement, Trump acknowledged that his lawyers warned him he would not only get sued for initiating a national emergency, but he would also probably lose. States, lawmakers and other advocacy groups almost immediately responded with promises to pursue legal action against the Trump administration.
On Feb. 18, 16 states announced they are pursuing legal action in response to the national emergency. Among these 16 states are Oregon, California, New York and Maryland. The lawsuit was originally filed in the Federal District Court of San Francisco.
According to The New York Times, the lawsuit stated, “Contrary to the will of Congress, the president has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border.”
While Congress can potentially block the emergency, it requires the agreement of both houses. Democrats currently dominate the House of Representatives while there is still a Republican-dominated Senate. Several Republican senators, however, have voiced their concern with the president’s national emergency. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R–Ala., said Trump’s action was “of dubious constitutionality.”
Trump admitted it wasn’t necessary for him to invoke his emergency powers in his speech, saying “I 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.”
According to an interview between White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller and Fox News, even if Congress does manage to terminate the national emergency, Trump will likely veto the action. According to NPR, in order to overturn a presidential veto, both houses of Congress will need to have a two-thirds majority in favor of ending the emergency, which—given the current political makeup of the Senate—is extremely unlikely.
Presidents have used emergency powers for decades. However, Trump’s use of executive power to secure funding for something that Congress has previously and explicitly refused to fund is a first.