A lot had been written about what to expect from US President Trump, but one of the things that was not expected came on Friday when Trump declared a national emergency on the issue of immigration. Trump gave another rambling speech at a press conference where he declared the measure to stop immigrants from spreading ‘crime and drugs’ in the country before ending by admitting he ‘did not need to do this.’ Trump presented two women whose relatives had been allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants. Not only is this a dangerous peddling of myths about immigrants, it is clear that Trump will use the national emergency to divert funds from the Pentagon into his pet project: the US-Mexican wall. The fact that Democrats and Republicans are united in the condemnation of Trump’s unilateral and unexpected move should give some hope that Trump could still be tamed – but there is reason to fear the worst as a cornered Trump could fuel the fissures within American society more.
There are two options going forward: the measure could be blocked in court, or Congress could pass a resolution terminating the declaration. Trump would be expected to challenge any such move and there is little in his previous behaviour that can be examined to predict what his next move would be. The belief that the investigations surrounding Trump would tame him have also been proven wrong. The US is now set for a full conflict between the Congress and the president, which is likely to weaken the US political system further.
This is a case of politics being played. Trump had asked Congress for funds for the US-Mexico wall. Congress had failed to come to an agreement on the move. There is no doubt that this is a ‘fake’ emergency, but many in Trump’s support base believe the dangerous falsehoods he peddles. Diverting money from other pools itself is a dangerous measure at a time when the US has faced a number of natural disasters in recent years. The White House has been warned that the declaration could easily be quashed. But the impact of such moves is far beyond whether Trump will get his way. His presidency is already tarnished. The worry is what it will do for the intense polarisation and divisions within American society.