LOS ANGELES – Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) issued the statement below in response to a bipartisan Senate vote today rejecting Donald J. Trump’s unlawful emergency declaration at the Southwestern border. A similar resolution passed the House of Representatives last month.
Trump declared an emergency in order to bypass Congress, after it refused to foot the bill for construction of a border wall.
“Donald Trump’s declaration of a border emergency is plainly unlawful, built on a rapidly crumbling foundation of lies, obfuscation, misdirection, and racist nativism, with nary a fact or rational thought in the slurry mix. Such a declaration, arrogating constitutional authority from the Congress, cannot survive any fair legal review. Yet, even if Donald Trump actually believes that he has the authority — halfway through his term of office — to declare an ‘emergency’ about matters that he has lied and exaggerated about since before he entered the White House, today’s bipartisan Senate vote should give him great pause.
“Even assuming that legislation provides Trump the authority to declare a border emergency under these precarious circumstances, any president should consider carefully whether to veto a rejection by both Houses of Congress of an emergency declaration. Plainly, Congress did not contemplate granting an executive the authority to override a two-house rejection of a presidentially declared emergency.
“Ever since George Washington declined a third term as executive, our nation’s greatest presidents have recognized that they must sometimes self-impose limits on their authority that may not be clearly articulated in the Constitution. While Donald Trump has no chance of ever rising above the ranks of our worst presidents, he ought to seriously consider acting like a better president and person than he ever has in two years in office. Even if he believes he has the authority, he should refuse to veto a bipartisan congressional rejection of his chimerical border emergency. Any veto would simply confirm his astoundingly reckless arrogance.”