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The Eagle: President is right to declare a national emergency

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BRYAN, Texas, March 3, 2019 | comments
By U.S. Representative Bill Flores 

During the past several days, Americans have been bombarded with conflicting stories and opinions regarding President Donald Trump’s decision to use an emergency order to strengthen security at our southern border.

It seems that persons who do not support the president are claiming that he does not have the power to issue the emergency order, that border barriers are not effective, and/or that we do not have a problem at our southern border. On the other hand, persons who support President Trump are generally stating the opposite.

In order to address the confusion, it is appropriate to focus on the facts, on the Constitution and the law to clear up three critical questions. First, does the president have the authority to issue such an emergency order, second, are border barriers effective in providing border security and third, do we have a security crisis at the southern border?

First, regarding the president’s authority to issue his emergency order. The Constitution states that, as the commander in chief, one of the president’s primary responsibilities is to keep our nation safe. The law, pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, gives the president legal authority to “reprogram” funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes to address emergency situations facing the nation. Since the law became effective in 1976, presidents have declared nearly 60 emergencies, more than 30 of which are still in effect today.

President Barack Obama declared 12 emergency orders, of which 10 are still in effect today. Interestingly, one of his orders was issued to address national security at our southern border, with regards to the Mexican criminal cartel, Los Zetas.

President Trump is now using these same legal and Constitutional authorities to declare a national emergency in order to address the border security crisis discussed below.

Second, do border barriers work? The answer is yes, and the results prove it. Today, our almost 2,000-mile southern border has 654 miles of border barrier and/or fencing to control illegal crossings, drug smuggling and human trafficking. These barriers help steer illegal crossings to areas that can be controlled more easily by U.S. Border Patrol personnel. Since the barriers were installed in San Diego, illegal border crossings are down 92 percent since 1992; in Yuma, Arizona, illegal border crossings are down 95 percent since 2005; in El Paso, illegal border crossings are down 72 percent since 1993; and in Tucson, Arizona, illegal border crossings are down 90 percent since 2000.

Considering their effectiveness, President Trump requested that Congress fund $5.7 billion to construct approximately 234 miles of robust border fencing in the 10 areas deemed to have the highest illegal activity by our nation’s border security personnel, the same persons who put their lives on the line to protect us 24/7.

On the subject of border barriers, it is important to note two things: First, nobody, including the president, has suggested building barriers along our entire southern border, and second, barriers are only one part of an effective border security system. The recent Homeland Security Appropriations bill that was passed by Congress includes approximately $1.4 billion for 55 miles of barrier along three critical sections of the border in Texas and billions more for border security personnel and technology, humanitarian needs, immigration judges and drug interdiction.

The only shortfall of the bill is that it did not fund barrier construction along seven other critical areas of our southern border. The president issued his emergency order to address this security vulnerability.

Third, do we have a border crisis at our southern border? After reading the following, I think you will agree that we do.

In 2018, over 460,000 individuals were apprehended by the Border Patrol between ports of entry on the southern border — more than an 86-percent increase from the previous year. In January of this year, Border Patrol apprehended more than 45,000 illegal immigrants at the southern border — nearly double the number of apprehensions from January 2018.

Additionally, the Border Patrol recently released data showing a dramatic increase in the number of large groups of illegal immigrants being apprehended along the southern border. More than 50 groups — totaling 8,797 illegal immigrants — were apprehended crossing the border over the past four months. Smugglers and traffickers use these groups as cover and for diversionary tactics. Over a three-day span in January, Border Patrol agents apprehended multiple large groups and hundreds of pounds of marijuana and cocaine in separate incidents. Furthermore, many of the women and children who are part of these large groups are victimized by smuggling and in need of medical attention once they make it to the border. Since October, Border Patrol has transported more than 2,200 individuals to local hospitals for medical attention. This is a humanitarian crisis that cannot be ignored.

Some argue that, over the past decade, the number of individuals apprehended at the border has decreased, however, the dramatic increase over the past year clearly demonstrates a trend in the wrong direction. More than 460,000 individuals were apprehended in the past year. To put the number of apprehensions into perspective, it is nearly half of the population of Austin and more than the respective populations of the Waco metro area and the entire Brazos Valley.

Illegal immigration hurts Texas families: According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, between June 1, 2011, and January 31, 2019, 189,000 illegal immigrants were charged with more than 295,000 criminal offenses. This included charges for 539 homicides, 32,785 assaults, 37,234 drug offenses, 3,473 sexual assaults, and 2,976 weapon offenses.

In light of the foregoing discussion, the facts support President Trump’s constitutional and lawful authority to issue the emergency ruling to reprogram congressionally appropriated funds to install effective border barriers to deal with the security and humanitarian crises along our southern border.

This story does not end here, however. Much more needs to be done to address immigration and I will share my thoughts on this in the very near future.

To view this column as published CLICK HERE.
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