Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 2.18.19

The Border Wall Emergency, and Anti-Semitism Has No Place in America

Anti-Semitism Has No Place in America

I have been discouraged by an increase in anti-Semitism during recent months. The most horrifying example was the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last October, but anti-Semitic rhetoric has also become more commonplace in public life.

Often, this hate is directed at our close ally, Israel. Treating a steadfast friend and the only democracy in the Middle East with such vitriol is disgusting. I strongly believe Israel has a right to exist, but many, including some in Congress, unfortunately call this right into question.

We have an obligation to fight the scourge of prejudice against people of the Jewish faith. The House of Representatives recently passed an amendment offered by Republicans to condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I strongly supported this action.

I also cosponsored a resolution last year commemorating the anniversary of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel has the right, as any sovereign nation does, to designate its own capital, and U.S. policy should respect its choice.

Anti-Semitism is a betrayal of the values we hold dear as Americans. As we honor George Washington’s birthday in February, it is worthwhile to recall the first president’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. The congregation had joined the other citizens of Newport in welcoming Washington for a visit in 1790. When he wrote a reply thanking them for their hospitality, he restated his commitment to religious liberty and offered the following wishes:

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

National Emergency

President Trump recently declared a national emergency on the southern border. This step will allow him to use funds for building physical barriers. He is right to use this authority granted by Congress in the 1976 National Emergencies Act in this way.

A country has the fundamental right to be able to secure its own borders. In the case of the border with Mexico, failure to secure it has tragic consequences. Lives are destroyed by the drugs that are smuggled across the border and the human trafficking that occurs. These facts should indicate a national emergency under any reasonable definition of the phrase.

The declaration seems even more appropriate when surveying the subjects of the 31 national emergency declarations already in effect, as well as previous emergency declarations that are no longer active. Some of the emergency declarations have been active for decades and repeatedly renewed; a declaration issued by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 remains in force today.

Many of them relate to international affairs, targeting people and behaviors in other countries. An example is Executive Order 13348, issued in 2004 by President George W. Bush, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Importation of Certain Goods from Liberia.”

This declaration was issued as Liberia transitioned to a democracy after years of civil war. One of its objectives was to end illicit trade in round logs and timber products, which in turn fueled the arms trade threatening that country’s stability. So President Bush banned the importation of round logs and timber products from Liberia using his emergency powers.

Declaring an emergency about the importation of logs from Liberia did not cause a wailing and gnashing of teeth from people professing concern about executive overreach.

Surely the importation of deadly drugs and human trafficking into our country pose a graver threat.

Lack of control over the southern border jeopardizes the safety and well-being of many Americans. We feel some of these effects in the Ninth District, where Mexican cartels smuggle methamphetamine into our area and likely fentanyl as well. President Trump is responding to an emergency that directly impacts the country.

Whether Congress should have delegated expansive national emergency power to the executive branch is a fair question. I would support limitations on that power. If Speaker Pelosi wants to put forward a bill to limit these powers at the disposal of any president, Democrat or Republican, I am open to it.

But under current law, President Trump is certainly acting within the authority delegated to him and under circumstances that justify a national emergency.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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