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President Donald Trump will ask Congress next Tuesday to provide $2.6 billion in the September budget deal for border infrastructure in 2018, including the construction of new border walls, according to details provided to the New York Times.
According to the report:
According to officials, $1.6 billion of that money would go toward materials to build the wall. That would initially be used for continuing the levy [sic] wall in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and replacing existing fencing in El Paso and in San Diego.
The remaining $1 billion would go toward planning for the rest of the wall and other security measures.
The Times‘ report did not explain how many extra miles of border fences or walls would be built, or even how much of the money would be spent building a fence or wall, but it did report that:
the government intends to buy all sorts of equipment that will supplement or substitute for a physical wall. The budget request will allocate $239 million for aircraft and aviation sensors; $197 million for fixed surveillance technology, including towers, radar and cameras; and $202 million for what it described as “critical equipment” such as radios, computers and weapons … [plus] $111 million allocated for roads to gain access to parts of the border that are now hard to reach.
“Levee wall” is a term for strong flood-control walls alongside rivers, particularly along the Rio Grande river which marks the border with Mexico.
Trump’s primary promise in his 2016 campaign was the construction of the border wall, which is being desperately resisted by legislators who went to preserve the northward flow of roughly 550,000 illegal immigrant workers and customers up to businesses and donors in their districts.
The $2.6 billion request “seems less ambition, there’s no question about it,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The modest request may suggest they are trying to reduce opposition from Democrats in Congress, Krikorian added. “Maybe they’re trying to come up with something that [Democratic leader Chuck] Schumer won’t shut down the government over… but there’s no reason Schumer won’t threaten a government shutdown in September over wall funding — he did that in April and he got away with it.”
The modest request may suggest they are trying to reduce opposition from Democrats in Congress, Krikorian added. “Maybe they’re trying to come up with something that [Democratic leader Chuck] Schumer won’t shut down the government over… but there’s no reason Schumer won’t threaten a government shutdown in September over wall funding — he did that in April and he got away with it.”
“On the other hand, there is a lot of real-estate to buy if you are going to do more wall construction, and maybe [White House officials] are figuring it is not worth asking for money for construction until they have purchased the land,” he added.
Trump is also asking to boost the Pentagon’s 2018 budget by $52 billion, which will be used to buy extra aircraft and ships.
In March, Trump asked for $1 billion to quickly build an extra 48 miles of border fence during 2017. But Democrats threatened to shut down funding until the budget request was rejected, GOP legislators refused to fight for any money to build a wall, and so the May budget supplemental included no funds for new wall construction.
In mid-March, a White House official predicted the administration would ask for $2.6 billion for “border protections” in the budget request for 2018.
Most pro-American immigration reformers say border fences are better than new surveillance technology, which is expensive to buy and maintain and is also easily removed by future spending cuts.
If Trump wants to Congress to fund his border wall, he has to start fighting now, said Krikorian. “They need to start making the case now because it takes time to build political momentum for something, and the fight over wall funding in September is going to be a political fight,” he said.
“This is an important issue for Trump politically, and he needs to follow through because even those people who tell people they are not for the wall are not against the wall — only a kooky fringe are opposed categorically to the wall,” he added., citing the April comment by Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi that “the wall is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise, and when the president says, ‘Well, I promised a wall during my campaign.’ I don’t think he said he was going to pass billions of dollars of cost of the wall on to the taxpayer.”
“Make Nancy and her kooky moral opposition to border enforcement the face of those who are opposing the budget request,” Krikorian suggested.