Delaware Democrats strongly oppose Trump’s emergency declaration

Chris Coons

DOVER — Some of Delaware’s top officials are blasting President Donald Trump’s recent declaration of a national emergency that would allow him to redirect billions in federal funding to build a wall along the nation’s southern border.

After Congress did not pass legislation providing $5 billion for construction of a border wall, the White House announced last week the president would seek to reallocate money from the Department of Defense and a Treasury fund filled by assets seized by law enforcement. The president appeared to weaken his own case, however, when he told reporters Friday he “didn’t need to do this.”

Lawsuits have already been filed over the president’s action, with Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings joining attorneys general from 15 other states in a complaint alleging President Trump “has manufactured a ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction and military construction.”

As a result of the declaration, law enforcement programs and military construction projects may go unfunded, requiring states to pick up gaps in funding, the suit alleges. In the First State, Dover Air Force Base in particular could be impacted.

Tom Carper

Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat serving as Delaware’s junior member of the Senate, called the president’s decision “wrong, dangerous, and … unconstitutional.”

“The President is planning to take money from the military and from drug interdiction programs to build his wall,” Sen. Coons said in a statement. “That means funds for Dover Air Force Base, the Delaware National Guard, and law enforcement programs, which should be supporting things like the construction of better housing, schools, and medical facilities for servicemembers and their families, could be at risk — all because the President refuses to listen to border security experts and Republicans and Democrats in Congress who agree a wall is a bad idea.”

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, who recently returned from a five-day trip to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, believes the United States would be better served by focusing on the “root causes” driving many natives of those countries to emigrate. Poverty and violence is common in all three nations, which have seen significant upheaval and armed conflict in recent decades.

As a result, many people are fleeing for safer places. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the number of people born in Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador living in the United States grew from 1.5 million in 2000 to 3.4 million in 2015. The Pew Research Center reported a majority entered the country illegally, while others sought asylum.

Under President Barack Obama, the United States started an initiative known as the Alliance for Prosperity to help the three nations. Based off a program instituted in Colombia in the 1990s, the effort was intended to leverage money from the U.S. government, nonprofits, businesses and the governments of the three Central American nations to boost the economy, reduce crime and combat corruption in the region known as the Northern Triangle.

“The idea was that like Home Depot, you can do it, we can help,” Sen. Carper said Wednesday. “It was the idea used in Colombia. They did the heavy lifting, we helped.”

While he’s supportive of stronger border security, he believes a wall would cost tens of billions of dollars and prove ineffective. Instead, he is advocating for the United States to continue investing in other methods to protect its borders, such as drones and tunnel detectors.

Noting he has witnessed many national emergencies, from Sept. 11 to Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Carper rejected the president’s description of the situation as an urgent problem best solved by re-appropriating federal funding.

“I know what is a good candidate for a national emergency when I see one,” he said.

If successful, the declaration also sets a precedent that could cause Republicans to “rue the day they went along with the president,” he said, noting a future Democratic president could potentially use the same method to get around Congress.

While Sen. Carper said he believes racism is motivating some Americans to support construction of a wall and a crackdown on illegal immigration, he resisted when asked if the president is a racist, saying he doesn’t know him well enough to judge.

Illegal immigration has decreased in recent years: According to a November analysis from the Pew Research Center, the number of immigrants living in the United States unlawfully climbed from 8.6 million in 2000 to 12.2 million in 2007 before falling to 10.7 million in 2016.

But the president has persisted in describing the issue as an urgent one, firing up his base while sparking strong opposition from Democrats.

In a news conference Friday, he said a wall will stop “an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”

Delaware’s lone member of Congress’ lower chamber, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, in a statement was highly critical of the White House’s move. She was on the trip to Central America with Sen. Carper and several other Democratic lawmakers.

“The President’s emergency declaration is alarming. This unlawful action ignores Congress, the rule of law, and the will of the American people,” she said.

“I am deeply concerned about the precedent this sets and the programs that will be cut to pay for construction and litigation, including potential projects in Delaware. Having just traveled to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, it is clear that this wall will do nothing to fix irregular migration or its root causes.

“I am proud that Delaware has joined in a lawsuit with other states challenging this ill-conceived ‘emergency’ declaration. I will work with my colleagues to challenge this effort and protect crucial funds for Delaware, including Dover Air Force Base, the National Guard, and the various homeland security agencies that keep us safe.”

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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