Former National Security Officials Weigh In on President's Immigration Emergency Declaration? Should We Care?

By Dan Cadman on February 27, 2019

A group of former U.S. officials described as "bipartisan" signed a letter rejecting the president's national emergency declaration.

Many former officials apparently believe that their words are so golden, their reputations so pristine, that a mere signature on such a declaration will put the weight of public opinion, and perhaps future judicial rulings, in their court. Being a contrarian, I am not one of those easily swayed by such letters, and I hope others will not be either.

We have seen such efforts before.

For instance, in November 2017 several of the people who signed this bipartisan letter — Madeleine Albright, Leon Panetta, James Clapper, John Brennan, Janet Napolitano — also signed their names to a letter declaring that an amnesty for "Dreamers" was critical to the national interest.

And in June 2018, various former U.S. attorneys signed a letter expressing their disapproval of separating illegal alien parents from their children — even though some of the signatories had been in office at the time such separations also occurred during the Obama administration, and even more incredibly, two of the signatories had been directors of immigration agencies during that administration (Sarah Saldaña, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), and were participants in the federal government's policy decisions about all aspects of immigration.

In the instant letter, the signatories declare that "[W]e have participated in the highest levels of policy deliberations on a broad range of issues. These include: immigration, border security, counterterrorism, military operations, and our nation's relationship with other countries, including those south of our border."

The rhetoric is high-flying, but a close examination of their backgrounds shows that they are light — extremely light — on any substantive immigration experience as a group, and those who actually had any real responsibility for border security and immigration control tend to be like Janet Napolitano, who during her tenure as secretary of Homeland Security actually presided over the decline or termination of important immigration enforcement programs. She also quickly showed her true colors immediately thereafter at the University of California, where she presides over a statewide system that proudly declared its sanctuary policies while at the same time apparently engaged in fiscal shenanigans, including the creation of hidden slush funds.

Readers will note that at the outset of this blog, I put "bipartisan" in quotes. This is because, although there are in fact a smattering of Republican signatories to this letter, they are mostly of the George W. Bush variety, which is to say not impressive for their border security credentials. And they are few when compared to the number of Democrats who signed — a huge proportion of whom served in the Obama administration, which was infamous for its systematic dismantling of immigration enforcement throughout the eight years of that president's tenure.

It's also worth observing that several of the signatories have been accused of questionable activities while government officials, including John Brennan (spying on Senate staff and lying about it), James Clapper (lying about massive NSA programs spying on the public at large), Samantha Power (unmasking citizens innocently identified in government intercepts), and Susan Rice (deception about the reasons for the Benghazi attack).

Finally, a number of signatories are also openly and shockingly antagonistic toward Donald Trump; so much so, that one questions whether they are capable of forming independent and objective analyses about the emergency declaration or virtually any other matter that the president is involved in or has rendered a decision upon.

These are all the things that occurred to me, and made me skeptical, even before beginning to examine their reasons for believing there is no emergency, but that merits at least a brief discussion as well.

Among other things, the signatories assert that there is no emergency because the situation is one "that has been enduring, rather than one that has arisen suddenly." I cannot understand the logic behind this assertion. Every situation has its breaking point. Up until that point, it can be described as having been enduring, but what ultimately makes it a crisis is that it has not been attended to adequately. That, I think, more fairly describes what has occurred at the border over the past several years, for which both Democratic and Republican presidents must take their share of blame — along with sundry national security officials, including these signatories and those who worked for them and were content for the situation to deteriorate on their watch.

The signatories also assert that the situation has improved over time rather than deteriorated. By way of proof, they offer the statement that "Illegal border crossings are near forty-year lows." This is beyond simplistic, and is proof positive that the signers of this letter formed their opinion and then went looking for facts to justify opposition to an emergency declaration.

Yes, it's true that past apprehension numbers were significantly higher — and they consisted in the main of adult Mexican males who were quickly and effectively returned back to Mexico in very short order. Now we are confronted with hundreds of thousands of Central Americans crossing our border, including more women and children than ever in the history of this country. Nearly a third of the women and girls attempting to cross the border are sexually assaulted en route. What's more, under current policies making it virtually impossible to separate adults from children the minors are being used as "shields" against deportation, leading many adults to head north towing children of tender age regardless of the hazards of the journey. Some even go so far as to "borrow" children to make the journey, and hope to avoid detention through false claims to a familial relationship.

These hundreds of thousands of individuals need only say they fear return to ensure that they cannot be repatriated quickly because of the loopholes that exist in our laws. There are over a million cases backlogged in the immigration courts because of the glut. Another million or so aliens are roaming the streets of America under unexecuted final orders of removal, having fled from the authorities once released from detention and after being told that they must go home because their claims to asylum do not to meet the statutory definition, are inadequate, or are downright fraudulent. And because our system is no longer capable of handling the volume given the failure in procedures and laws, more are drawn northward.

Our government finds itself in the position of actually acting as accomplice in the smuggling of all of these people by violent gangs and cartels, because it is obliged to release them into the community, often to friends and relatives already here in illegal status themselves. If this is not a humanitarian and moral crisis for our nation, then nothing will ever meet that definition.