01/11/2019

Can President Trump Alone Build A Border Wall?

Andrew Napolitano, Fox News

When Donald Trump was looking for a catchy phrase during his 2016 presidential campaign to address the issue of immigrants entering the United States unlawfully -- a line that would resonate with his supporters -- he came up with the phrase "build the wall." The reference, of course, is to what Trump advertised would be a 30-foot-tall, thousand-mile-long Mexico-financed physical wall along our border with Mexico.

At first, most folks seemed to dismiss this a pie in the sky. Why would the government of a foreign country pay for a wall in the United States built so as to keep its own citizens and residents from entering the United States? The answer: It wouldn't.

So President Trump changed his argument that Mexico would pay directly for his wall by arguing instead that the $5.7 billion down payment he wants -- on a $25 billion to $30 billion project -- would indirectly pay for itself in reduced government welfare and law enforcement expenses. The idea of the wall never took hold during the first two years of his presidency, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

Even Republicans were leery of the cost and the imagery. The federal government is running about $1 trillion a year in the red, and Republicans are looking to offer comfort in their party to Hispanics. Adding to that debt to build a wall that would affront other Hispanics did not rest well with them. Until now.

Now that the Democrats control the House of Representatives, where the idea of a wall is dead on arrival, it is easier for House Republicans to argue in favor of it. Because the Democrats numerically outnumber them, the House Republicans won't be forced to vote on it. The president is probably kicking himself for not calling in a few favors and addressing the wall before the Democrats took control of the House.

So, faced with intractable opposition in the House and only lukewarm, mainly symbolic support in the Senate, Trump has threatened to bypass Congress, declare a national state of emergency and build the wall on his own. Can he legally do this? In a word: No.

Here is the back story.

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