Border Families

Mary Ann Mendoza, in a February 2018 photo, became an activist for tougher immigration laws after her son, Mesa Police Sgt.  Brandon Mendoza, was killed in 2014 by a drunken driver who was in this country illegally. She joined other advocates at the White House as President Donald Trump vetoed a bill that would have blocked his declaration of a national emergency at the border. (Photo by Ariana Bustos/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Backed by sheriffs and members of “angel families,” including three from Arizona, President Donald Trump on Friday vetoed a bill that would have blocked his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.

“I knew this day would come, you know, that he would do something that proves to all of us that he is doing exactly what he promised the American people during his campaign,” said Mary Ann Mendoza.

Mendoza, who founded Angel Families for survivors of people killed by immigrants here illegally, was at the veto signing ceremony with fellow Arizona Angel Family member Steve Ronnebeck and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.

Despite Mendoza’s optimism, however, Friday’s veto is not a green light for the national emergency declaration that Trump said would let him shift billions of dollars that Congress has denied him for border wall construction.

Congress does not appear to have enough votes to override the veto. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday the House would “once again act to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override.”

Even if the override stands as expected, the emergency declaration faces several separate court challenges, including one from 16 states.

But Trump said Friday while “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution … I have the duty to veto it.”

“Congress’ vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality,” Trump said. “It’s against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency.”

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that the only emergency was of Trump’s making.

“Congress has refused to fund the wall multiple times; Mexico won’t pay for it; and a bipartisan majority in both chambers just voted to terminate his fake emergency,” Schumer said in a statement released by his office.

Arizona lawmakers did not immediately return requests for comment Friday. But in a statement Thursday – when 12 Senate Republicans joined all Democrats to block the emergency on a 59-41 vote – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, said Congress has a responsibility to control the budget.

“Several weeks ago, Congress increased Homeland Security funding by $1.7 billion for this year,” Sinema’s statement said. “While there is more work for Congress to do, the emergency declaration undermines critical military assets across our country and unnecessarily puts at risk resources for Arizona servicemembers and national security.”

Trump declared a national emergency last month as he grudgingly signed a budget bill that allowed the government to reopen after a 35-day shutdown, the longest in history. That budget included $1.375 billion for border security, less than Congress had originally offered and well below Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion, a demand that sparked the shutdown in December.

Trump said the emergency would let him shift $6.6 billion, mostly from the Defense Department, to a border wall.

Critics seized on Trump’s remark at the announcement of an emergency that he “didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” Congress moved quickly to reject the declaration, with the House on Feb. 26 voting 245-182 and the Senate following suit Thursday.

Arizona’s House delegation split along party lines, with Democrats opposing the emergency and Republicans backing it. The state’s Senate delegation also split, with Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, voting to uphold the emergency.

At the White House signing ceremony Friday, Lamb urged lawmakers to “come down and see firsthand what we’re dealing with…. And you’ll see that we do – we are dealing with a crisis.”

“What we say in Arizona is, this isn’t about immigration anymore; this is about drug trafficking and human trafficking into this country,” he said. “If you care about human rights, you should absolutely care about border security.”

Mendoza insisted there is an emergency at the border and that “the American people are fed up with the lies that come out of Washington.”

“This is what’s right for our American people and what is right for our country,” she said after the veto.

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