California Gets Trumped

Trump declares national emergency for his border wall and extracts funds from California to foot the bill.


Illustration by Miles Gaius

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

If there is anything we have learned from Trump’s two years in office, it is this: the man delivers on his promises. When he says he will terminate Obama’s immigration executive orders, he does it. When he says he will expunge all undocumented immigrants, he does it. When he says he will build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, he does, in his mind at least.

This administration has constituted a rare thrill for reality entertainment junkies, with a president who spins fiction into fact and tweaks the political ‘script’ to make ends meet on a nearly daily basis. Maybe Trump has not managed to get Mexico to pay for the wall, but that will not stop him from admitting wrong. Of course he did not mean Mexico would write a check; he just meant they would pay for it indirectly through a North American trade deal. Of course.

Yet, America still needs to scrounge up the funds. But with a record-breaking thirty-five day temporary government shutdown leaving over 800,000 out of work and Trump’s wall down $300 million from the bipartisan bill proposed by the Senate last year, the POTUS is in a pickle. Will he admit his mistake? Or will he be a ‘man’ and cover them up with policy?

Is there even a question there?

Trump is now on the hunt for new funding sources, or should we say, scapegoats. As of last Tuesday, he has channeled his inner Orson Welles to declare the long-figmented national emergency at the Southern Border, a new development in his long history of prioritizing the what over the why, the action over the sobered query: is such an action needed? But to a desperate man, unhappy circumstances call for unhappy measures. Trump now draws on a 43-year-old piece of legislation to bypass Congress and tap into a robust funding pot.

Actually, to call it a pot may be misleading. Trump is not accessing any brimming bank account hoarded by the House or Senate. He is simply using executive authority to strip funding from other sectors of the government and funnel it toward his wall.

About $600 million will be taken from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, $3.6 billion from military construction, and $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense counter-drug activities. It seems a bit counter-intuitive.

With just these three meager embezzlements, or budget cuts, the $5.7 billion needed to “confront the national security crisis on our southern border” as Trump put it at the White House Rose Garden on Friday, is covered. So it may come as a surprise to some that he is recently turned his sights on California to ask for more.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration threatened to rescind $3.5 billion in federal funding toward California’s high-speed rail project set to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has already canceled a $929 million grant. How coincidental that these actions came just 24-hours after the Golden State spearheaded a lawsuit (with fifteen other states) to call out Trump’s national emergency for the xenophobic ridiculousness that it is?

The in-the-works California high-speed train is estimated to cost around $77 billion, a figure the administration is making endless mockery of to shift the blame from ineffective border walls to “broken,” “failed,” and expensive high-speed transportation projects. But Governor Gavin Newsom is putting his money where his mouth is, underwriting Trump’s recent decisions as “political retribution”.

It is not clear how this will play out in the courts, but Newsom is hopeful as ever with the message that California refuses to partake in Trump’s “political theater”.