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What Exactly Is a National Emergency? An Explanation

From one government complication to another, now we have a “national emergency” on our hands. And even though its been the talk of the town lately, what does it really mean? Well, let us break it down for you.

This has been a topic recently. This is because, on February 14, 2019, United States President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the US/Mexico border in order to find funding for a border wall. This occurred after experiencing the longest government shut down the country ever had, which occurred over funding disputes over the same wall.

What is a National Emergency?

A state of emergency is described as any situation where the government empowers itself to perform actions not usually permitted. Examples of this include natural disasters, civil unrest, and sudden armed conflict. The freedom granted varies by scenario and country. The idea behind this is that if something truly horrible was happening, the government could enact this to take action and protect citizens without being slowed down by red tape.

This is often abused, unfortunately. In the past, states of emergency were used as an excuse by dictators to suspend the freedom and rights of their citizens.

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In the United States specifically, a state of emergency grants the following powers (summarized):

  • Congress may call forth the military to execute the laws.
  • Congress may suspend rights for cases of rebellion or invasion.
  • Felony charges may be brought without presentment in the militia during times of war.
  • A state may engage in war without congressional approval if invaded or under imminent danger.

For an emergency to be called, the President needs to specify which provisions are activated. They are also required to renew the declaration annually as to not allow for an endless hold of power.

Why This is Controversial

Many see Trump’s recent declaration of emergency to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to get funding for a border wall. No one feels that we are in any immediate danger from Mexico. Not enough to declare a national emergency, at least. It’s also a common tactic by dictators to force their will on a country.

Others disagree with this, believing that this is the only way we can get progress to happen with our government powers constantly at odds. It’s no secret that democratic and republican congressfolk are constantly fighting each other more than trying to do good for the country.

Here’s an interesting fact for you: the United States has been in a state of emergency since 2001. It was declared after the events of September 11’s attack on the twin towers. The provision enacted removed restrictions on both the size of the military and the duration of military service. It has been renewed every year since then by whichever president was acting at the time of renewal.

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