My Fellow Americans:
I speak to you as our government has entered its second month in partial shutdown.
That is partly by the design of our Constitution: Under our “checks and balances,” it is Congress that has the “power of the purse,” the sole authority to appropriate money.
The President, however, has the authority to sign into law, or not, what Congress appropriates.
In today’s polarized climate, with all its political bickering, “checks-and-balances” has delivered us deadlock. Without a legal appropriation of funds to operate the government – appropriated by the Congress and signed by the president – the government cannot continue. It shuts down.
Usually, that brings compromise. Compromise requires, of course, both sides giving something they don’t want to give, in order to get something they want.
I am well aware that government shutdown has prevented our government from performing important functions, providing important services, and has called upon many thousands of federal government employees to go without work, or go without pay.
As president – one of the only two officers elected by all the people – I now accept the responsibility to reopen the government, because Congress won't. The opposition party in Congress rejects the compromise I proposed, in which I agreed to sign legislation giving them several measures they want: three years' relief from deportation for “Dreamers,” and immigrants under “temporary protected status,” $800 million for humanitarian aid, and $805 million for border and drug detection technology, 2750 additional border agents, and 75 immigration judge teams to facilitate the admission of those deserving asylum.
There should have been compromise, but deadlock continues.
It falls to me to break the deadlock, and now I will do it.
- I find that illegal immigration across our southern border has created a legal and humanitarian crisis.
- I find that extending the physical barriers which already protect part of that border, to more of that border, is what the United States must do to protect our country’s security and sovereignty.
Not everyone agrees.
- Some deny that border barriers are effective – although we already have many miles of them, paid for with money appropriated by Congress, over several decades, under several former presidents.
- Some see other sources of illegal immigration – such as tourists overstaying their visas – and other places where illegal drugs enter the country – are more pressing.
- Some, it seems to me, disagree only because I am the president – because they agreed to add border barriers when proposed by other presidents.
And some -- to put it bluntly -- see illegal immigration and this government shutdown as ammunition in the next round of elections. But that’s nearly two years away. They should put their politics aside, and deal with the here-and-now: Border security is essential.
Many thousands of government employees, businesses large and small, and the economy as a whole are paying the price of their political posturing.
As president, it is my duty, when I see the county in jeopardy, to take remedial action to the full extent of the president’s powers under the Constitution and our laws.
Accordingly, I am declaring that the situation of illegal immigration at our southern border, and the inflow of illegal drugs, is a national emergency.
Under laws passed by Congress, during previous administrations, a presidential declaration of emergency authorizes the president to apply certain funds – previously appropriated by Congress – from one purpose to another. I am exercising that authority.
Pursuant to these laws, I have directed the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and other departments in the Executive Branch to make available, immediately, up to $5.7 billion of such transferable funds in order to build the border barrier.
The opposition will surely try to stop it in the courts. Therefore, in order to move ahead as fast as possible, I have instructed the Attorney General to commence an action in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia for a declaratory judgment, to resolve the question that I am acting within the Constitutional and statutory authorities vested in the presidency.
I ask the courts to act very expeditiously. The question will in all probability need to be resolved by the United States Supreme Court – and the sooner it gets there, the better. Delaying the judicial process – for example, by imposing a judicial injunction freezing the construction of the barrier – will be counterproductive, because the government will remained closed longer.
Once the courts have confirmed my exercise of presidential authority to respond to this emergency, so that we can build the necessary border barrier, I will be able to sign an appropriation from Congress that does not include border barrier funding.
On the other hand, if the courts do not confirm the action I am taking today, then Congress will still need to pass an appropriation for building the needed physical southern border barrier, so that I can sign it, and then the government will reopen.
Of course, my office remains open for compromise.
Our Statue of Liberty shines her lamp over America’s front door to immigration – legal immigration. That has been so throughout our history, and remains true today.
But we also need to shine a light on the gaping backdoor of illegal immigration, and we need to close it.
I cannot in good conscience sign an appropriation that does not honor our nation’s commitment to enforce the rule of law, including our immigration law, or which continues to look the other way while our southern border is openly ignored and trampled.
Thank you and good night.