En route to Texas to assess a situation he has described as a humanitarian and national crisis, President Trump was briefed by members of his administration on a plan that would allow him to reallocate billions of dollars of disaster aid money from other places across the nation in order to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico border.
According to officials who were part of that meeting, Trump was told that he could declare a national emergency in regards to the need to build a border wall to stop unwanted immigrants from entering the country. After an emergency was declared, he could then move funds allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers that were once dedicated toward other aid and prevention projects to pay for the construction of the wall, NBC News reported on Thursday.
In total, Trump could move about $13.9 billion from those projects to fund 315 miles of a border wall or other barriers at the southern border.
The funds would reportedly be moved out of projects that are currently geared toward recovery efforts in places hit by hurricanes and floods. About $2.5 billion of the $13.9 billion figure would come from projects to help Puerto Rico, which is still recuperating from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, which hit the island territory in 2017.
Another $2.4 billion that could be transferred to build the wall could also come from projects in California designed to prevent flooding around the Yuba River. And $4.5 billion could be taken away from projects in Texas, funds that were allocated to help that state recover following Hurricane Harvey, according to reporting from CNN.
These funds have not yet been spent, and were slated to be used between now and the year 2020. However, with a national emergency declaration from Trump, all of that could change, and be spent on a single project to build the border wall instead. The Army Corps projected that it could build such a wall in as little as 18 months.
The White House has not yet commented on the reports that such a proposal has been considered by Trump.
The president has been increasingly vocal about considering declaring a national emergency in lieu of needing to strike a deal with Democrats in Congress to pass a bill to fund government operations. The U.S. has been dealing with the consequences of a partial government shutdown since December 22, due in part to Trump’s demands for government funding to include appropriations for a border wall project and Democrats’ refusal to agree to such a proposal.
On whether he’d move ahead with a declaration of a national emergency, Trump seemed inclined to do so if necessary.
“[I]f we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms,” Trump said earlier on Thursday.