For months, President Trump has toyed with the idea of declaring the southern border a “national emergency,” thereby securing some of the money he needs to build a wall.

Now that Congress has reached a deal, and Trump didn’t get anywhere near the amount of money he demanded, he has said he’s going to do just that.

But what exactly makes something an emergency?

We could look at statistics and tell you that the amount of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border is the lowest that it has been in a decade and that more people actually cross illegally into the country from Canada. We could mention that there’s no evidence of terrorists hitching a ride on caravans to sneak in with Latin American asylum seekers.


We could look at the law, but there’s no official definition of a “national emergency.”


So instead we’ll just turn to the dictionary.

Merriam-Webster defines “emergency” this way:

1: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action
2: an urgent need for assistance or relief
Ex: the mayor declared a state of emergency after the flood

Let’s break that down, shall we?

1. Is the situation at the border unforeseen?

Well, no. Trump has been talking about the crisis of illegal immigration since he announced his candidacy in June 2015.

2. Does it require immediate action?

Many conservatives, such as Ann Coulter, would argue yes, but so far no “immediate” action has been taken. Trump has been president for just over two years. In that time, Republicans controlled Congress, and they did not do anything about the border.


3. Is it an urgent need?

See above.

Not convinced? Let’s try another source. Here’s

1. A sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action

The situation at the border is not sudden, urgent or unexpected.

Whether the U.S.-Mexico border constitutes an emergency could end up being decided by the courts. If they go by the dictionary definition, it’s going to be a hard sell for the White House.

Because, as Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in the Atlantic last month, “Presidents don’t dawdle in the face of real emergencies.”