Make no mistake, there is a crisis on our southern border.
President Trump is well within his legal rights to declare a national emergency. The illegal flow of humans, drugs, and criminal activity threaten the very fabric of our nation. For too long, America has neglected its responsibility to enforce our sovereign borders.
We’ve reached a “breaking point.” That’s the latest report from Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agents on our southern border, who stopped 76,103 unauthorized migrants last month alone. These numbers represent a 12-year high for illegal immigration, and a surge in migrant caravans has overwhelmed Border Patrol’s response capability and processing facilities. For context, there were two groups of over 100 migrants arriving in 2017, but in the last five months alone, there have been 62 attempted crossings by groups of over 100 migrants. This is a clear sign that conditions on the southern border are worsening.
We have also seen a drastic increase in the number of family apprehensions, which are set to double. Over the last five years, there has been a 2,000% increase in asylum claims with only about 10% of those claims being legitimate. This is the result of legal loopholes that incentivize the use of children to gain entry under the Flores settlement. This has led to a massive backlog in immigration court cases while most migrants vanish into the U.S. interior without ever being removed.
Further, the entire Mexican side of our southern border is controlled by criminal cartels who smuggle drugs and humans. These elements operate in direct violation of our immigration laws and threaten the safety of American citizens. Drugs pour across our border and destroy American lives. Since 2012, CBP has seized more than 11 million pounds of dangerous narcotics between ports of entry, areas that require enhanced border security, compared with four million pounds at ports of entry.
Criminal activity from violent gangs like MS-13 and other undocumented individuals has also spilled across the border, claiming the lives of many American citizens. ICE Enforcement & Removal Operations made arrests on 2,028 homicide offenses last year and 1,886 homicide arrests in 2017. For each of those cases, there is an Angel Mom, Angel Dad, or other family members who have lost their loved one to violent criminal acts by an illegal alien.
It is intellectually unsound to say that this is not a crisis.
While Congress has failed in its duty to provide the necessary funding for border security, President Trump has acted decisively to address this national security and humanitarian crisis. He has both the legal right and a constitutional obligation as Commander-in-Chief to secure our homeland.
I have carefully reviewed the Constitution, the National Emergencies Act, and relevant public law. There is solid legal footing for President Trump’s national emergency declaration. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 grants broad authority for a President to declare a national emergency, and 10 U.S.C. 2808 allows the President to repurpose existing, appropriated military funds for national emergency construction projects.
Further, national emergencies have been used regularly by past Presidents to address national crises, providing a well-established precedent. President Carter issued one, President Clinton issued six, President George W. Bush issued eleven, and President Obama issued ten national emergencies. In fact, one of President Obama’s national emergency declarations addressed the threat of criminal cartels, including the Los Zetas drug cartel in Mexico.
So, why the outrage now?
This was not a partisan issue prior to President Trump’s election, and it shouldn’t be divisive now. However, Democrats are blinded by their hate for President Trump. Their obsession to destroy the President has caused them to put the safety of American citizens at risk.
President Trump’s proposal and his national emergency declaration reflect direct requests from border agents and law enforcement professionals on the front lines. We need an all-of-the-above strategy to secure our border, including enhanced physical barriers, 21st-century technology, and additional manpower. We must also eliminate the pull factors and legal loopholes that are driving illegal immigration. Children are not visas, and we should take action to end their exploitation by human smugglers.
These are common-sense measures and should be a bipartisan effort. However, if Democratic obstruction continues to paralyze Congress, President Trump should use the full authority of a national emergency declaration to prioritize the safety and security of American citizens.
Congressman Clay Higgins represents South Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations.