Why Iowa's not challenging Trump's emergency declaration--for now

Iowa is not among the sixteen states that filed suit yesterday to block what they called President Donald Trump’s “unconstitutional and unlawful scheme” to declare a national emergency in order to divert federal funds toward building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Attorney General Tom Miller has joined dozens of multi-state legal actions challenging Trump administration policies, and his office has not ruled out joining this lawsuit, communications director Lynn Hicks told Bleeding Heartland on February 19.

“We are concerned about the emergency declaration and are watching its impact on Iowa. At this time, we are not aware that any funding to Iowa would be diverted. If that changes, we will work with our congressional delegation, Gov. Kim Reynolds and other attorneys general to consider our options.”

Staff for Reynolds did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the governor’s position on Trump’s declaration or possible legal action if the president diverted funds designated for Iowa programs. I will update this post as needed.

Though presidents have declared national emergencies on many occasions, they have never employed that power as a means of financing a project Congress repeatedly declined to fund. The U.S. House will soon take up a resolution to disapprove of Trump’s order and could sue the president if the U.S. Senate does not pass the measure, or if the president vetoes it.

Sixteen states (mostly with Democratic governors) are not waiting. Their lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeks to

protect their residents, natural resources, and economic interests from President Donald J. Trump’s flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution. Contrary to the will of Congress, the President has used the pretext of a manufactured “crisis” of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction, and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border. This includes the diversion of funding that each of the Plaintiff States receive. Defendants must be enjoined from carrying out President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful scheme. […]

Use of those additional federal funds for the construction of a border wall is contrary to Congress’s intent in violation of the U.S. Constitution, including the Presentment Clause and Appropriations Clause. Such use would divert counter-drug programming funds directed to the states, and military construction funds to be spent in the states, for the non-appropriated purpose of constructing a border wall. Even if the Administration could constitutionally redirect funds toward the construction of the border wall, the Administration does not satisfy the criteria in the statutes that it invokes to enable it to do so.

The lawsuit describes potential harm to plaintiff states, which “stand to lose millions in federal funding” for National Guard units, law enforcement, or military construction projects.

There is also no objective basis for President Trump’s Emergency Declaration. By the President’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary. The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) data show that unlawful entries are near 45-year lows. The State Department recognizes there is a lack of credible evidence that terrorists are using the southern border to enter the United States. Federal data confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than are native-born Americans. CBP data demonstrate that dangerous drugs are much more likely to be smuggled through, not between, official ports of entry—rendering a border wall ineffectual at preventing their entry into this country.

Notwithstanding the illegality of and wholesale lack of necessity for the Emergency Declaration, the Trump Administration has expressed its intent to move quickly with the construction of the border wall. A senior advisor to the White House reportedly said the Administration will proceed with construction at a speed that will “shock” people. The thwarting of congressional intent to fund a vanity project that not only will fail to safeguard national security, but is positioned to cause significant harm to the public safety, public fisc, environment, and well-being of Plaintiff States’ residents, cries out for judicial intervention.

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