by Lauren Schuster, Social Media Editor
As part of Campus Ministry and Social Action’s Slice of Social Justice program, Margaret Groarke, Ph.D. joined students and faculty in Cornerstone to discuss President Trump’s recent declaration of a state of emergency to build a wall on the southern border of the United States.
This led to many different areas of discussion amongst those in attendance, including whether or not lack of funding for the wall constitutes a state of emergency, whether any president should have the right to determine when our country is in a state of emergency, whether there is a need for the wall itself, what President Trump has done so far to attempt to fund it and what types of alternate immigration reforms could be proposed.
“[Trump] decided to use his ability to declare a national emergency to use funds that had been appropriated for other purposes to build the wall,” Groarke said to the group. “Presidents sometimes do this, there are a lot of emergency declarations. There was an emergency declaration over the Zika virus, over Hurricane Katrina. Lots of time it’s natural disasters or [like] 9/11, a terrorist attack.”
While the National Emergency Act has traditionally been used to more quickly bring aid in the situations Groarke mentioned, she also made clear that there are already existing budgets in place in case of events like those.
“We have money set aside in the budget every year in case there are natural disasters,” Groarke said. “So you don’t really need to declare a national emergency for, let’s say, Hurricane Maria, because we’ve created an agency that has a budget that’s supposed to be ready to respond, so then if they need more money, you have a least a couple of days to give them more money. I don’t know if we can invent a national emergency that isn’t already planned for somehow.”
Even if actively threatened by another country, Groarke explained that there are still resources already allotted for a response.
“Militarily, we have a standing army that has a lot of resources, so it’s not like we need to raise a billion dollars for the Pentagon if someone marches across the Canadian border with an army,” Groarke said. “So maybe we don’t need the president to have the right to do that.”
The discussion also delved into the topic of how paying illegal immigrants less than the U.S. minimum wage hurts both their right to fair pay and unemployed Americans’ right to have a fair chance at a job.
“We appear in this country to depend a lot on people who are underpaid because they don’t have any rights, and that also undercuts the pay of American citizens,” Groarke said. “I think we can probably fix that problem more by thinking about those two groups as workers who are being taken advantage of in different ways than as really competitors.”
As the program’s discussion continued, the idea of legal versus illegal immigrants was also brought to the table.
“There are a lot of people who will say ‘well, people should come here legally,’ but at the same time that the current administration is cracking down on illegal immigration, they’re also really going after legal immigration too,” Groarke said. “They’ve reduced the number of judges who are hearing citizenship cases and asylum cases, so if you’re here and trying to do it the right way, you’re not getting a chance to have your day in court so you can have your case heard.”
These additional restrictions for legal immigration give rise to further questions about why there is such a strong push for limiting the number and type of immigrants allowed into the country.
“So you have to think, is it really about preventing people from just running across the border with drugs and guns or is it about you trying to reduce the population or you’re trying to reduce the population of brown people who live here, or what’s the real goal?” Groarke said.
One of the students in attendance, junior Anna Rosario, decided to come to the event after her recent experience visiting the southern border for herself.
“Since coming back from my L.O.V.E. trip to El Paso, I’ve been really passionate about immigration issues and what the government has been doing regarding immigration right now,” Rosario said. “And I love Dr. Groarke, I’m a part of the Government and Politics Club, so learning that she was the one leading the discussion I was really enticed to come.”
Rosario felt that the discussion was very beneficial for more people to understand each other’s concerns as well as the facts of such an important national issue.
“We learned a lot from each other, so I think it was a conversation that was long overdue to be had on campus, and I think this semester Campus Ministry and Social Action is doing a really good job at bringing that conversation to the table at MC,” Rosario said.
Another student in attendance, senior Kaiyun Chen, chose to attend the event in hopes of learning more about immigration from both the faculty and her peers.
“I always think that it’s important to be more informed about these kind of things,” Chen said. “Even if you already know a little bit about it, you always want to know more. There’s always more to know, and to see different perspectives, too, especially from events that have not just professors, not just students but both, it’s very beneficial.”
Chen believes that everyone should aim to be more informed about national issues like the border wall if we want to have a hope of working towards resolutions.
“When you’re more informed, you create a more passionate way to take action, because if we’re not more informed, then these problems will never get discussed and solved because it’s not going to be talked about and it’s going to continue to be a problem forever,” Chen said.