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Roe responds to editorial on emergency declaration support

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, Guest Commentary • Mar 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Recently, the Johnson City Press published an op-ed questioning why I support President Trump’s national emergency declaration on the southern border when I opposed the Obama Administration’s executive action that granted illegal aliens amnesty without any consent from Congress. Aside from the fact that both executive actions deal with immigration, they could not be more different in nature.

The Obama Administration’s executive action allowed certain individuals who have been in our country illegally to register and avoid deportation. First — and I said this at the time — I’m opposed to that policy on the merits, whether it was constitutional or not.

This policy incentivized Central American migrants to make a dangerous journey with their families by giving them a false impression that if they reached the United States they would eventually be given amnesty. Second, no congressional action ever explicitly authorized the president to take this action. There was no legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president that allowed him to change the rules on who could be deported.

Although the liberal Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld this action, the case awaits consideration by the Supreme Court on its constitutionality. I continue to believe this action exceeded the president’s constitutional authority.

On the other hand, I think President Trump’s emergency declaration to preserve national security and combat a growing humanitarian crisis at our border is the right policy for our country.

People are dying traveling to America; drugs are crossing the border in record amounts; and mass caravans of people are making migrants vulnerable to human trafficking and violence. While the constitutionality of this action will also be decided in the courts, the president has cited specific statutes that appear to give him this authority and, on their face, appear constitutional.

President Trump is addressing an ongoing emergency and is legally justified under the National Emergencies Act (10 U.S.C § 12302; and 10 U.S.C § 2808) and anti-drug and -crime laws (10 U.S.C. § 284; and 31 U.S.C. § 9705). There’s no question that Congress has in the past recognized the national imperative of strengthening our physical barriers on our southern border, and the president’s action is in line with the authorizations set forth in the Secure Fence Act of 2006, having authorized funding and action.

House Democrats — and, unfortunately, some House Republicans — supported a bill to overturn the president’s national emergency declaration which passed the House 245 to 185, and should the bill reach the president’s desk I will vote to uphold his veto.

It is the editorial board’s right to oppose President Trump’s actions and to oppose my vote to support the President’s action. But I think when they go out into the community in the First District, they will find that a lot of people are fed up with the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws and an apparent double standard that exists. Why should some have to follow the rule of law but not others?

Americans are the fairest people in the world, and welcome legal immigrants to this country. Immigration yields countless benefits for our country, but we have thousands of immigrants following the rules and waiting patiently for their turn to become citizens.

We need to decide whether we are going to have laws that we enforce or nothing but open borders. Just last week, House Democrats overwhelmingly voted last week to defeat an amendment to prevent people here illegally from voting in our elections. This is unconscionable.

I strongly support comprehensive reforms to our broken immigration system that secure our borders, reform our visa process, and find a fair path forward for those who have lived their whole lives in the United States but were brought here illegally. I am proud that President Trump brought much needed attention to the humanitarian crisis at our border. Although funding a wall with a direct appropriation would be preferable, Democrats’ refusal to discuss immigration policy has left the president with few options and action must be taken to enforce our laws and secure our borders.

Phil Roe of Johnson City represents the 1st Tennessee Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Editor’s note: The editorial in question issued no judgment against the merits of immigration law enforcement. In fact, it stated, “The Supreme Court rightly blocked Obama’s executive action on immigration reform because it’s up to Congress to write the laws that govern our nation — though we’re still waiting for Congress to take any action at all to mend the dysfunctional immigration system.” The editorial specifically addressed Roe’s inconsistent approach to the limits of presidential powers with regard to the will of Congress. We stand by that opinion.

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