WASHINGTON (Good Politic) – The former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday that what was happening on the southern border of the United States was not an emergency.
Craig Fugate, who led the National Disaster Agency for nearly eight years under President Barack Obama and was head of the Florida Disaster Agency under a Republican Governor, said the refugee push was demanding asylum on the border with Mexico was not a national emergency.
President Donald Trump has called it a crisis and weighs a national emergency declaration to bypass a reluctant convention and fund its long-promised border wall. This is the issue that has led to the prolonged partial closure of the government.
The Obama administration has tasked Fugate, responsible for recovery operations after many hurricanes and other disasters, to handle the problem of separated migrant children.
"And it was a crisis," Fugate said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. It was a question of mass care, he said.
More terrorists enter the United States via the northern border than the south, said Fugate, who was part of the Department of Homeland Security.
"I have not seen anything physical yet that can stop illegal immigration," Fugate said. He added that it would be more economical and more efficient to spend money to reduce crime and poverty in areas where refugees are fleeing to end illegal immigration.
"This is gesturing," said Fugate. He said that Trump basically said, "If I can not get the funding from Congress, I will use my authority to get around it."
Fugate is worried about the current tendency of presidents to be more powerful than the legislative and judicial branches, as he has traced back to Abraham Lincoln and, more recently, to Franklin Roosevelt. The Supreme Court has prevented President Harry Truman from using national emergency powers to nationalize the steel industry, but Fugate has expressed concern that this will not happen if Trump says a national emergency needs to get around the Congress.
"What happens when they suspend the vote? What will happen when they suspend the congress? "That's what happens in countries where the executive is more powerful than the legislature and the judiciary."
This story was corrected to show that Fugate had been instructed by the Obama administration, not by the Trump administration, to handle the problem of separated migrant children.