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Johnson City reacts to state of emergency

W. Kenneth Medley II • Feb 16, 2019 at 12:34 AM

President Donald J. Trump’s move to bypass Congress and declare a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border Friday drew strong and mixed reactions in Johnson City.

Both houses of Congress approved legislation to avert another government shutdown Thursday, but that bill only allotted $1.4 billion for border security, far below the $5.7 billion Trump demanded before the 35-day government shutdown that ended last month.

During his announcement, Trump said that he could build the barrier over a longer period of time, but he wants “to get it done faster.”

The question of where the funds will come from are still up in the air. Proposed measures lean toward re-appropriating money from the military construction fund. The secretary of defense can divert money from the fund during times of war or presidential national emergencies, according to a 1982 law.

What did some Johnson City residents think of Trump’s move?

“If Congress is not going to allow it to be budgeted in, then it needs to come from somewhere. It is up to Congress what they want done,” Dorothy Mccabe, VFW Post 2108 quartermaster, said, “They have to do something, they are not really giving him any other options.”

Ed Wolff, a local activist and columnist, is worried about the checks and balances in an emailed statement. 

“The President, by evoking a national emergency, might be creating a constitutional crisis. The founding fathers of this nation were incredibly wise in creating a separation of powers: Congress enacts the laws, including development of revenue and identification of expenditures. The Executive branch carries out the laws and exercises military judgment and foreign policy. The Judicial branch decides on justice and interpretation of the law. By this action, the President is attempting to encroach upon the powers of Congress.

When I listened to his comments I heard the President evoke fear, talk about himself and what a great President he is, and use techniques applied by despots. I heard his comments to be political rather than concerned about the national interests. I heard nothing of concern for the people, our citizens at the border, those being confined, the plight of those desiring the true values of this nation because of the fear for their lives, economically and/or physically. I heard lies to make his case. I heard nothing of the awareness that almost 2/3 of our nation do not want the President to evoke a national emergency. What I heard is not a leader, but a politician bowing to his base rather than the health of our nation.”

Kaylani Ngirarois weighed in with a different perspective.

She is a U.S. Army veteran, serving for six years. During that time she spent 21 months in Afghanistan on two separate combat tours. Now, she is a business student at Strayer University, daughter of an immigrant and mother of three. She also served as a U.S. Customs Inspector at Saipan International Airport before moving to Johnson City.

Ngirarois said, “I don’t necessarily think that building a wall is going to stop crime, stop all illegal immigrants coming in or the drug and sex trafficking that occurs at the border, but I feel that it will help. (Trump) calling this state of emergency to do so, they really didn’t give him an option and we all saw it coming. Nancy Pelosi didn’t want to work with him. None of the Democrats wanted to work with him. They were only giving him 25 percent of what he asked for. I agree that he has to pull funds from other places, because no one wants to give him any money now. He is pulling these funds from the military construction build-up, not from their mouths. Not from their homes or anything like that. I am OK with it.”

She also added, “I agree with Ted Cruz about the El Chapo deal. Taking all that drug money from him and funding the border security. That would be like Mexico paying for it. (Trump) did say Mexico was going to pay for it.”

Being an immigrant living in Johnson City, Joseph Penaloza, Hispanic American Community Student Alliance president at ETSU, says it is hard to hear Trump, the leader of the U.S., label Hispanics as rapists, drug dealers and murders. Penaloza emailed his statement to the Johnson City Press.

“First things first, I believe everyone is entitled to their own political opinion and that we must respect each other, no matter what we may believe.”

Penaloza added, “From my perspective, the decision by President Trump to declare a state of emergency to secure funding for his wall is simply an egregious overstep of presidential authority. It is the job of the Congress to control the finances of the country, not the President’s.

“In addition, this creates a dangerous precedent in the fact that the president seems to be acting outside of the role of the executive branch. Thus endangering the checks and balances that the forefathers intended. I think that most Americans, no matter what community they belong to, believe the U.S. has a right to secure its borders, guard against the threats of terrorism, and the movement of clandestine goods. Including human trafficking, but there are several problems with the methods that the president is using to achieve the desired goal.”

A full copy of Penaloza’s statement can be found here.