ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

What do you picture when you hear “National Emergency?” Is it the imagery of chaos in the streets, a surveillance camera on every corner, and the National Guard marching down Superior St? The truth is, National Emergencies are relatively tame and forgettable for most people. However, this doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly.

The National Emergency Act was passed by Congress in 1976, establishing that the President has the authority to declare a National Emergency at anytime during their tenure, and further establishing that a National Emergency can last up for an entire year before it has to be renewed. Since the first order in 1979 (President Carter’s response to the Iranian hostage crisis), there have been over 58 National Emergencies declared. According to the Brennan Center, a whopping 31 of these 58 National Emergencies are still in effect across the country. The subjects of these National Emergencies can range from everything from sanctions on countries like Syria and North Korea to prohibiting interactions with terrorist groups to quickly dealing with outbreaks like Swine Flu. The Bush administration declared 13 emergencies and the Obama administration declared 12.

As of publication, the Trump administration has already declared 3 National Emergencies. The first was used in December 2017 to sanction 13 various generals and heads of states for their role in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. The second was used to sanction various people involved in hacking to influence the election. And the third was used to place restriction on Nicaragua after the President, Daniel Ortega, violently cracked down on protestors. Despite saying he would declare a National Emergency over the opioid crisis, President Trump instead declared a Public-Health Emergency.

Recently, the Trump administration has been seemingly laying the groundwork to declare a National Emergency over the influx of immigrants at the southern border, despite no clear threats emerging. In 2017, the Trump administration boasted that it had the lowest levels of illegal immigration on record. 2018 had levels only 11% higher than that, according to Department of Homeland Security memos.

Trump has implied that he would use the National Emergency status to build a wall across the southern border. While National Emergencies are evidently regularly used, using a National Emergency to override congress is unprecedented and extremely dangerous to a system that depends on checks and balances.

National Emergencies have been relatively innocuous in the past. However, exemptions to this such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and unaccountable torture programs post-9/11 should give every American pause when they hear one looming. In addition, the declaration of a National Emergency gives the President powers that haven’t been utilized throughout American history, but are ripe for potential abuse. These powers include disregarding bans on biological and chemical weapons, warrantless control of people’s finances, and allowing the President to seize control of U.S. internet traffic. Prevention of abuse depends on the vigilance of congress, the courts, and the people.