There’s stark contrast between that fight and the dry, pro forma announcement from the White House on Thursday that extended the national emergency for a second year. Congress is mandated to review the declaration every six months and has done so, but its determination that the emergency should be ended was met with presidential vetoes.
Paired with Thursday’s announcement was a news report on how the Pentagon was still reorganizing pools of money to meet Trump’s needs. Another $3.8 billion will be diverted from purchasing new aircraft and drones, upgrading vehicles and making other purchases so that more wall can be built in this crucial election year.
Last year’s declaration was stark in describing the need for a barrier.
“The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch’s exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years,” it read in part. “In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending.”
The continuation notice excludes that language, stating instead that while the “executive branch has taken steps to address the crisis … further action is needed to address the humanitarian crisis and to control unlawful migration and the flow of narcotics and criminals across the southern border of the United States.”
In fact, the number of apprehensions at the border, which had been spiking when the emergency declaration was first made, has dropped sharply. From the beginning of fiscal year 2016 to the emergency declaration, there were about 40,000 apprehensions on the southwest border each January on average. Last month, there were fewer than 30,000, according to Customs and Border Protection.
That spike was unique only in recent years. Before 2006 — when new funding for border barriers passed Congress — apprehensions topped 150,000 a month regularly.
The most recent spike was a function of what the government calls “family units,” parents crossing the border with children. The number of such apprehensions increased in 2018 and spiked after the declaration was announced. It has since receded.
The administration claims credit for the decline in Thursday’s announcement. Changes in rules about how migrants are treated have played a role. There’s some indication that Trump also contributed to the spike. Migrants who wanted to come to the United States may have been spurred to do so last year out of concern that construction of a wall was imminent.
Last month, the number of family units apprehended at the border fell below 5,200. That’s lower than the average monthly apprehensions of family units from the beginning of fiscal year 2013 through the emergency declaration.
Again, this was a “particular” reason for the original declaration itself. The current justification is much broader, with broad references to the threats posed by illegal immigration. It is simply an “ongoing border security and humanitarian crisis” at the border — despite apprehensions being lower than they were the month Trump took office.
There is still an obvious pressing need for the emergency declaration, however. In his State of the Union address, Trump told Americans (including his 2016 supporters) that the wall was underway.
“We have now completed over 100 miles and have over 500 miles fully completed in a very short period of time,” Trump said. “Early next year, we will have substantially more than 500 miles completed.”
True to form, that’s not what the prepared speech said. As written, Trump was supposed to say that his administration had “completed over 100 miles and will have over 500 miles fully completed by early next year.”
Can’t accomplish even that without continuing the emergency.