Donald Trump has allegedly made a 360 U-turn over the Mexico border wall and is now looking at U.S. taxpayers to fund the $14 billion project.
The 70-year-old politician’s transition team has reached out to Republican Congress leaders in a bid to make it happen. A source speaking to Politico revealed that if all went well, federal tax dollars would be diverted towards the 2,000-mile-long wall along the southern border.
During his campaign, the billionaire businessman promised to build a wall to thwart the entry of illegal immigrants and said that Mexico would pay for the construction of the wall. The rallying cry “Build the wall!” became popular among Trump supporters. The 70-year-old at his rallies would often smirk and ask, “Who’s going to pay for it?” and the resounding answer by his supporters would be “Mexico.”
The matter generated plenty of controversy between Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. The pair publicly disagreed about how the wall would be funded when Trump flew to Mexico to see him in August 2016. The New York businessman had revealed that while other things were talked about, the issue of the wall was not part of the discussion.
The Mexican president had insisted that the wall was discussed and reaffirmed in Spanish, “I repeat what I told you personally, Mr. Trump: Mexico will never pay for a wall.” Since that time, the future president has doubled down on his original pledge. In October last year, he proposed the “End Illegal Immigration Act,” whereby America would pay for the wall, but seek repayment from Mexico. He has also suggested that the wall be a fence or not span the entire southern border in a bid to whittle down costs.
A source in the Trump team speaking to CNN said the new funding initiative would take a cue from Bush’s 2006 Secure Fence Act. The 2006 Secure Fence Act was inclusive of a wide immigration reform package which clamored for 850 miles of double fencing along the southern border. In 2008, lawmakers tweaked the law and reduced the length to 700 miles. They also left the construction of what type of physical barrier would be required to the discretion of the secretary of Homeland Security.
Eventually, only 36 miles of double layer fencing was erected. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection included approximately 350 miles of single-layer pedestrian fences which stand at around 18 feet. There was also around 300 miles of low-level vehicle barriers which anyone could easily pass through. Needless to say, the aim of the project which was to keep out illegal entries into the U.S. was defeated.
After complaints from immigrant groups and the Mexican government, the Bush and Obama administrations pushed claims for a “virtual fence” that would use surveillance sensors and manned towers at the border. The administrations argued that it was a cheaper approach to curb the illegal influx, especially in the light of the physically challenging terrain. Over $3 billion was spent on the project before Homeland Security blew it to the back burner in 2010.
The Bush-led 2006 law was never fully implemented, and Republican leaders believe this is a loophole the Trump administration can exploit. They believe the “blue-collar” billionaire can continue where his Republican counterpart left off and would only need to look for ways to generate funding for the wall. Republicans believe they would score a political point over Democrats up for reelection soon if they could realize one of Trump’s most foremost promises during his campaign.
Mr. Trump is looking at staunch support from Congress. Even though most Democrats are expected to oppose this move and make things difficult. House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer believes the Democrats can be checkmated if funding is linked to a mandatory spending bill, authorizing funding for a law already passed.
“There’s already in existing law the authorization for hundreds of miles of build out on the southern border…so, one important step in the right direction will be funding the existing law and beginning the building out of hundreds of wall, or fence, on the southern border. If tied to the rest of government funding, it’s much harder for the Democrats to stop, and by the way, I think it’s much harder for Democrats to vote against it if what you’re doing is authorizing funding for an existing law.”
Donald Trump claims Mexico will pay back U.S. for border wall https://t.co/fbKFoVnf18— Monica May (@MonicaMay15) January 7, 2017
But Republicans could still have their own oppose them within the party. A new Government Accountability Office study estimates the price of a single-layer fence to be $6.5 million per mile, or $10.4 per mile for double-layer fencing. If the Trump administration goes with double-layer fencing the cost would stand at $4.2 billion. Money would still need to be spent on buying out Texas landowners with private property in the area as well as maintaining border patrol agents to watch over the expansive landscape.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]