Border wall a complex issue for 2020 prospect Beto O’Rourke
By WILL WEISSERT
Monday, February 18
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — When President Donald Trump visited Beto O’Rourke’s hometown to argue that walling off the southern border would make the U.S. safer, the former Democratic congressman and possible 2020 presidential hopeful was ready.
As the president filled an El Paso arena with supporters, O’Rourke helped lead thousands of his own on a protest march past the barrier of barbed-wire topped fencing and towering metal slats that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
O’Rourke clearly hopes to make his personal experience with the border a strength if he runs for president — and the battle over billions of dollars in new fortifications may well shape the 2020 campaign.
But O’Rourke’s history with the barriers that have lined the Rio Grande since he was a child actually could be a bit of vulnerability, too.
As the 2020 campaign is joined, other top Democrats can oppose Trump’s call for more and larger walls as a straightforward wedge issue — something they say shows anti-immigrant feeling, intolerance and even racism.
But O’Rourke’s record on border walls is complicated. In March, he supported a spending package that other leading Democratic contenders opposed and included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Buried in that was $44.5 million for repairs of existing fencing elsewhere — including El Paso.
O’Rourke later explained the vote as a compromise to win approval of another proposal he backed, expanding access to mental health care for military veterans who had received other-than-honorable discharges. But his action attracted criticism from people who know the border best. Scott Nicol, co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s Borderlands team, called it “very disappointing.”
“The things that he has said have been dead on,” Nicol said. “The next step becomes what do you do.”
O’Rourke’s nuanced position on border barriers, sometimes willing to use them as a bargaining chip, could be politically awkward in a national campaign but it’s shared in El Paso. Here, many people accept dozens of miles of existing walls as a fact of life, objecting mostly to structures so intrusive they suggest a war zone.
“People in El Paso live with the border and the ambiguities and contradictions of the border,” said Josiah Heyman, director of the University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Interamerican and Border Studies.
In an interview Thursday night on MSNBC, O’Rourke said he would “absolutely” tear down El Paso’s existing walls and that he believed a majority of residents would back doing so. That somewhat contradicts his past statements about opposing entirely open borders, but O’Rourke has previously backed having them porous enough to promote trade and immigrant culture. In an interview in 2006, he decried President George W. Bush’s proposal for bolstering the existing walls with more surveillance technology.
Bush’s barrier “didn’t seem like a meaningful suggestion at all, but maybe that’s because we already have it and it doesn’t seem to be working,” he said.
City Council member Peter Svarzbein said El Paso’s character isn’t based on keeping people out, but rather on tens of thousands who legally cross every day for work, school, shopping or to see bi-national relatives.
Democratic analyst Colin Strother noted, “There are places that physical barriers make sense, but it does not make sense everywhere and that seems to be the big disconnect.”
O’Rourke’s attempts to explain his record could be difficult in a hotly contested primary campaign. His 2020 rivals could run into their own complications on the issue soon, however, after Congress approved $1.4 billion in new border wall money as part of a deal to avoid the latest government shutdown.
In the end, O’Rourke “may have some firsthand knowledge, but I don’t know if it’s a winning argument,” said Democratic political consultant James Aldrete, who helped conduct Hispanic outreach for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
El Paso had only limited border security before 1978 when, facing an influx of immigrants looking for work in the U.S., Congress approved chain-link fencing later dubbed the “Tortilla Curtain.” A 1986 federal law granting legal status to about 2 million Mexicans in the U.S. made the prospect of heading north even more attractive.
Eventually, thousands of people were pouring into El Paso every day, sometimes paying as little as a quarter for rides on makeshift rafts over the Rio Grande.
“People could cross whenever they wanted,” said Silvestre Reyes, who was chief of the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector in 1993 and won a congressional seat in 1996. “The city was tired of it.”
Reyes ordered around-the-clock patrols and authorities repaired 100-plus holes in nine miles of fences downtown.
But when O’Rourke, then an upstart ex-City Council member, ran against Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary, he didn’t make Reyes’ border crackdown an issue. Instead, O’Rourke more frequently complained of long wait times for cars crossing into El Paso from Juarez.
O’Rourke now opposes pumping any money into new walls. Instead, he’d like to see a coalition of border Democrats and Republicans in Congress hammer out a broader immigration overhaul.
“We know that there is no bargain where we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little more security,” O’Rourke told an emotional El Paso rally he headlined after the Trump protest march. “We know that we deserve to, and will, lose both of them if we do.”
Reyes doesn’t agree with O’Rourke on much but also opposes erecting concrete walls, which Trump has supported in the past.
“We have a lot of slats where you can still see through it,” he said of El Paso. “That helps Border Patrol agents, but it also is supported by people living at the border.”
Can Congress or the courts reverse Trump’s national emergency?
February 15, 2019
Author: Chris Edelson, Assistant Professor of Government, American University School of Public Affairs
Disclosure statement: Chris Edelson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: American University School of Public Affairs provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, after Congress, in its new spending bill, denied him the full money to build it.
“We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs,” Trump said in a speech on Feb. 15 before signing the declaration.
Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi warned Trump against declaring a national emergency, saying that it set a precedent for future Democratic presidents to use that power. A number of liberal organizations have threatened to file challenges in court on the grounds that Trump’s move is an abuse of power.
But will the courts step in? What is Congress’s role in this situation?
As I explain in my book “Emergency Presidential Power,” presidents generally claim emergency power two ways: through inherent or implied authority under the U.S. Constitution or under statutory authority granted by Congress.
Relying on the Constitution as a basis for emergency power is controversial, and less likely to stand up to meaningful congressional or judicial review. The U.S. Constitution says nothing specific about presidential emergency power: Presidents can only claim such authority is implied or inherent.
The emergency powers the Constitution does describe are actually assigned to Congress. Congress has delegated some emergency powers to the president through statutes, including the National Emergencies Act. But Congress retains the power to reject a president’s declaration of a national emergency.
Now the question is: Will Congress use the power available to it, or will it play the role of passive spectator?
Gaining congressional approval
Since presidents lack any specific constitutional emergency power, they often find it necessary to gain congressional authorization. For instance, at the start of the Civil War, with Congress out of session, President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and took other unilateral actions. He later sought and gained retroactive approval from Congress for these actions.
This precedent of gaining congressional approval was put to the test nearly 100 years later. In 1952, President Harry Truman claimed emergency power to take control of steel factories during the Korean War in response to a labor strike. He invoked a “very great inherent power to meet great national emergencies.” Congress took no specific action to approve or disapprove, though a preexisting statute on the books weighed against Truman.
When factory owners sued the administration, the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, ruled against Truman in the famous Youngstown Sheet decision. Justice Robert H. Jackson’s concurring opinion in that case has been especially influential and is often cited by legal scholars and judges. He outlined a three-part test to be used as a starting point in determining when presidential action is constitutionally permissible.
Under Jackson’s test, presidents are on the strongest possible footing when acting with congressional approval. In this case, Jackson said, Truman’s position was weak since he was taking action that did not comply with the relevant legislative framework. In Jackson’s view, Truman’s reliance on inherent emergency power under the Constitution would dangerously concentrate power in the president’s hands, something the framers would not have wanted.
Jackson’s opinion in Youngstown suggested that emergency power could be defined by Congress in statutes.
Congress took up that suggestion with the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Though the act was designed to set limits on presidential power to declare national emergencies of indefinite length, it has ended up providing a largely unregulated way for presidents to take unilateral action. Congress has failed to fulfill its responsibilities under the law.
The National Emergencies Act permits the president to declare a national emergency without congressional approval, triggering specific statutory powers that the president can use. For instance, presidents have used this law to impose economic sanctions against terrorists after 9/11 or regulate foreign ships in U.S. waters. Thirty-one emergency declarations are currently in effect under the statute.
Congress can vote at any time to terminate a state of emergency, and is required by the statute to meet every six months while an emergency is in effect to consider whether it should continue. However, it has never voted on an emergency declared by a president or held meetings as required by the statute.
Perhaps most importantly for Trump, the National Emergencies Act provides no criteria for deciding whether a national emergency exists. We know from history that presidents can contrive emergencies as a pretext for action.
For example, in 1846 President James Polk falsely claimed that Mexico had spilled American blood on U.S. soil as a pretext for gaining a declaration of war from Congress.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt justified the decision to intern 110,000 Japanese-Americans without trial based on false claims that time was of the essence, and at least some Japanese-Americans were known to be disloyal.
Although both of these examples pre-date the 1976 Act, they serve as cautionary tales about the wisdom of accepting at face value a president’s claim that an emergency exists. However, because the law now in effect provides no specific standards to define the existence of an emergency, courts might be inclined to defer to presidential discretion. It is far from clear that courts will strike down Trump’s national emergency.
By contrast, it would be straightforward for Congress to reverse a declaration of national emergency. The National Emergencies Act gives legislators authority to reject a presidential declaration of national emergency through simple legislation that would require majorities in the House and Senate. President Trump would presumably veto such action. Legislators would have the opportunity to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority vote. That of course would be no easy task in the current Congress.
Because of the way the National Emergencies Act was drafted, Congress is better positioned to take action than the courts – assuming enough members are moved to act. If Congress does nothing, then the law could become a vehicle for presidential abuse, especially because the act’s language seems to grant the president broad discretion that could insulate an emergency declaration from legal challenge.
All eyes should be on Congress.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story originally published Jan. 12, 2019.
Freedom for All Begins with Freedom for the Most Marginalized
During Black History Month, we celebrate the legacies of those who learned what it truly means to be free — by being denied freedom for centuries.
By Tracey L. Rogers | February 13, 2019
When I visited the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C., a volunteer docent asked the following question: “Who freed the slaves after the Civil War?”
There were about 10 of us in the group. Some looked around wondering if it was a trick question, while others blurted out, “Abraham Lincoln!” After some time, the docent finally offered his response: “Enlisted slaves freed themselves, with the help of Union soldiers.”
I had a powerful reaction to this response, because history tells a different story of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.”
The truth is, President Lincoln knew the Union army would be unsuccessful in its Civil War campaign without more able bodies to defeat the Confederate army.
When he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, he didn’t merely announce the end of slavery in rebel territories. Lincoln also asked Blacks to enlist in the Union army, inviting “people so declared to be free” to be “received into the armed service of the United States.” Lincoln knew he needed troops, but he also knew he couldn’t make such a request without freeing the slaves.
My ancestors didn’t go to war to help the Union army, or to prevent the South from seceding. Nor did they fight alongside Union soldiers because of a shared cause for a country undivided. My ancestors fought in the Civil War because freedom was the reward after centuries of enslavement.
Blacks knew what was at stake. This wasn’t about politics, nor was it about patriotism. This was about freedom — freedom for themselves, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren — and freedom for me, a distant descendant. There was no other way around it. Sadly, war was their only hope.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “No one is free until we all are free.” What he meant at the time was that we couldn’t dare refer to our nation as “Land of the Free” when not all of us were.
This was a contentious debate even for the founding fathers. During the Revolutionary War campaign for freedom from the British monarch, leaders of the new nation were viewed as hypocrites abroad for enslaving Africans.
Matched only by America’s treatment of indigenous people, slavery is by far the darkest period of U.S. history. Even after the Civil War, Blacks in America endured another century of Jim Crow while fighting for civil rights. Even today, the struggle for Black lives continues, as racist systems and politicians continue to erode our democracy.
America wouldn’t be America if not for the wealth generated by Blacks forced into domestic slavery. So as we celebrate Black History Month — a too-short 28-day memorialization highlighting the contributions of Black Americans — I invite you to consider how their contributions benefited the greater good of society despite malicious attacks on our freedom.
Harriett Tubman literally brought slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. She was also a political activist and armed scout for the Union Army during the Civil War.
Sojourner Truth, meanwhile, was an early advocate for women’s rights alongside Susan B. Anthony. Her work paved the way for future leaders like Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement that’s done so much to raise awareness about pervasive sexual assault in our society.
If you want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just look to Black Americans at the helm of freedom and justice movements throughout the nation.
Barack Obama said, “Our freedom depends on you being free too.” Freedom for all begins with freedom for those marginalized. The Black community has been denied basic freedoms for centuries, which is why we inherently understand what it means to truly be free.
Tracey L. Rogers is an entrepreneur and activist living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
At All-Star Game, Anthony Davis finds himself in spotlight
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
Sunday, February 17
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Anthony Davis isn’t completely sure if he’s going to play in Sunday’s All-Star game. He doesn’t know how much the New Orleans Pelicans will have him play the rest of this season. Or where he’ll play next season. Or where he’ll play the season after that, either.
So Davis, obviously, has a lot of questions.
At All-Star media day, he also had some answers.
Yes, Davis wants to keep playing through the end of the season with New Orleans. No, he didn’t eliminate Boston from the list of cities where he would consider playing. Yes, he will test the free agent market in the summer of 2020. And above all else, big market or small market, he insists that having a chance to win is all that matters going forward.
“It’s time to go play ball,” Davis said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Davis — provided a shoulder strain doesn’t keep him out — will finally be LeBron James’ teammate Sunday night, when Team LeBron takes on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Team Giannis in the All-Star Game. The league’s annual showcase exhibition always comes with subplots, and this year, the one where Davis just asked for a trade that didn’t come seemed to generate more All-Star weekend buzz than anything else.
“I’m just keeping it real, to be honest,” Davis said while talking with reporters. “I knew that’s all you guys wanted to talk about. I just stated how I feel, I stated my intentions and I go on from there.”
Davis confirmed that there was a list of teams on his preferred get-traded-to list — James’ Los Angeles Lakers, along with the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
He also denied that the Celtics were not on his list, news sure to delight fans in Boston and not the rest of the Eastern Conference.
“They are on my list,” Davis said.
The Lakers unsuccessfully tried to acquire Davis, and the Pelicans aren’t exactly sure what happens now. They fired general manager Dell Demps on Friday and replaced him on an interim basis with Danny Ferry, a move that Davis said caught him by surprise but also doesn’t change his thinking that a change of scenery is needed. It’s been argued that the Pelicans might be best served not playing Davis, though the NBA — which has already fined the 2017 All-Star MVP for saying he wanted a trade — would surely come down hard if they sat him for no reason.
“It’s about the best situation for me, the best fit for me,” Davis said. “When the time comes, obviously, I have to re-evaluate my situation and see what market best fits me and go from there.”
Here’s some more of what to know about the All-Star game:
DIRK AND DWYANE
Neither Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki nor Miami’s Dwyane Wade expects to play a lot in the game, which they got invited to by Commissioner Adam Silver to commemorate their NBA careers. Nowitzki is in his 21st season, all with the Mavericks, and hasn’t officially said he’s retiring. Wade is retiring after 16 seasons, most of them with the Heat.
“I’m getting old,” Nowitzki said. “This doesn’t get old. This is great to be here. Just enjoying the stage one more time.”
Wade had his son Zaire on the floor for some of practice on Saturday, as father-and-son were throwing lobs to each other.
“He has the same dream,” Wade said, “to one day be sitting up on this podium.”
LeBron James is hoping for a close game Sunday.
James was one of the players who decided enough was enough when it came to All-Star teams flirting with scoring 200 points, and wanted to find ways to make the game more competitive. It still doesn’t — and won’t — have playoff intensity, but last year’s game was played at a higher level than any All-Star Game had in years, a 148-145 final, and James wants that to continue.
“I know we all saw the way the game was last year, and we’re going to try to top it,” James said. “Hopefully, it can come down to the wire, like it did last year, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is relishing his first time as an All-Star captain.
“I’m comfortable on this stage,” Antetokounmpo said during media day.
That doesn’t mean he’s taking this lightly.
Antetokounmpo, who has led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record so far this season and is an MVP frontrunner, says the captaincy — and the mere mention of a team being called Team Giannis — is humbling.
“If you told me that six years ago … I would have never, never, never thought I would be in this position right now,” Antetokounmpo said.
Charlotte’s Kemba Walker will have the home crowd on his side Sunday night. And while Walker says he hasn’t given much thought to making an All-Star Game MVP push, many of his fellow All-Stars wouldn’t be surprised to see the Hornets’ guard take a swing at winning that award.
“Kemba is different,” said Houston’s James Harden, the NBA scoring leader and last season’s MVP. “The way he’s so crafty, his ball-handling, his shot-making ability. He’s been playing at a high level. One of the top players, definitely, as far as playing for the first half of the season, and he’s been doing it for some years now. Definitely one of those guys that gets overlooked.”
Team Giannis coach Mike Budenholzer, who will have Walker on his team Sunday, said he has a simple gameplan for the Hornets’ star.
“Turn him loose,” Budenholzer said.
The All-Star MVPs from nine of the past 13 games will play Sunday. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis have all won it at least once. James won the award last year.
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As the president filled an El Paso arena with supporters, O’Rourke helped lead thousands of his own on a protest march past the barrier of barbed-wire topped fencing and towering metal slats that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)