Texas senator: Border wall isn’t ‘fake emergency’ and U.S. needs to move forward

Texas senator comments on Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn comments on President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall while in Fort Worth to promote STEM Education Law.
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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn comments on President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall while in Fort Worth to promote STEM Education Law.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn believes it’s a shame that President Donald Trump had to declare a national emergency to free up money to build his long-promised border wall.

“In my view, it’s an unnecessary step in that Congress should have done its job,” said Cornyn, a Republican, who was in Fort Worth on Wednesday to tour the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and discuss a new law to promote Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) education and jobs.

“Now the president has done it and it will be in the hands of the courts,” he said. “Who knows how long that will take? ... It will make it harder for construction to begin.”

Cornyn’s comments come just days after Trump declared the emergency to lock in billions of dollars Congress wouldn’t allocate for his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Critics quickly filed lawsuits — including one by 16 states that did not include Texas — challenging Trump’s move, which shifts money dedicated for other purposes to build the wall.

Another lawsuit was filed by several groups, including the Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We will not allow the Trump administration to use funds illegally obtained through a power grab to further devastate our border communities and impact our environmental landscape,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas.

Cornyn said border security once was a bipartisan issue.

“It’s kind of a political football (now) and that’s a shame,” he said. “Congress should have done its job. But obviously Congress did not, to the president’s satisfaction.”

Trump’s desire for the wall dates to his 2016 presidential campaign, when he and supporters chanted “Build That Wall.” When asked who would pay for it, Trump’s response was Mexico.

Cornyn said he believes it’s important to move forward with the wall, citing drugs, sex trafficking and exploitation of asylum laws as among the problems at or near the border.

“I don’t simply ... agree with those who say it’s a fake emergency or we don’t need to respond,” he said. “I think we do.”

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said during a town hall meeting near Austin that he does not support Trump’s emergency declaration.

“The reason that I have not been supportive of the declaration is because Congress has done a really poor job, we ... Congress, both sides of the aisle, put the president in this situation, OK, but I don’t support it from a selfish standpoint,” Williams said, according to Austin-American Statesman reports.

“One of the things that I was able to accomplish was to get $61 million into Fort Hood so we can rebuild the barracks that literally were condemned and literally were falling down, and our kids (soldiers), many of them were sleeping on the ground, that should never happen,” said Williams, whose district stretches from the edges of Tarrant County to Austin. “We’ve got money for motor pools, we’ve got money for runways. All this stuff’s happening, from a selfish standpoint, and I’d hate to see a lot of those dollars diverted from that.”

Williams later clarified that the need for the emergency declaration is because Congress hasn’t passed measures to secure the border.

“While there have been real concerns about money being taken away from much needed barrack and facility renovations at Fort Hood, Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan’s recent comments that military housing will not be touched is an important step, and I will continue to push the issue to make sure this is the case,” he said in a statement. “I fully support President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to secure the border — including using an emergency declaration — following the clear intentions of the Democrats to simply kick the can down the road and play politics with the safety of Americans.”

Fort Worth's Penna Group is among more than 200 companies that have shown interest in building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.