Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
March 16, 2017
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is asking Congress for billions of dollars in new spending for his promised border wall with Mexico and stepped up immigration enforcement, with new money requested for officers, jails, judges and lawyers.
Still, even if the full request is granted, it won’t be nearly enough to pay for an end-to-end barrier across the U.S.-Mexican border. Congress would then have to appropriate more money in future years or the administration would have to scale back its ambitions.
The administration’s funding request will come in two parts.
First, the White House is asking Congress for $3 billion for the current fiscal year—what is known as a supplemental request. That includes $1.4 billion to design and begin building a wall with Mexico this year, according to the official request, which was sent to Congress early Thursday. It also includes $1.1 billion to jail and deport more people in the U.S. illegally, plus money for more agents and other programs.
Then, for the coming 2018 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the administration is asking for more than $4.5 billion in new spending.
The 2018 Trump budget request includes $2.6 billion to begin planning and building a “physical wall” along the Mexican border, with additional new spending to begin hiring Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents, and another $1.5 billion to jail more people who are going through deportation proceedings.
There’s also nearly $80 million to hire 75 new immigration judge teams, part of the Justice Department budget, an effort to address a severe backlog in the immigration courts that consider deportation cases.
Justice proposal also includes money to hire 20 new attorneys who will focus on obtaining land needed along the southwest border for the wall. Much of the unfenced land on the U.S.-Mexico border is privately held by owners who don’t care to sell their rights, meaning the government would have to try to seize the property in court under eminent-domain proceedings.
Together the requests could amount to $7.5 billion or more in additional spending on border security at a time when President Trump is proposing deep cuts in other domestic spending.
At the Homeland Security Department, the Trump budget request includes cuts to the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA.
An early version of the department’s budget plan, prepared by the Office of Management and Budget last month, also included a $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard, though an official familiar with the planning said that the Coast Guard reductions were subsequently modified.
The requests for new border building are far short of the $21 billion that DHS has estimated would be needed for the physical barrier Mr. Trump envisions on the southern border.
Many experts have said an end-to-end wall isn’t needed, and the project faces opposition from many quarters, including Texas Republicans who see a wide range of downsides to a wall along their border with Mexico.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, one of the Republicans to voice doubts about the Trump plan, said Wednesday that he wants more details before he offers his support for the funding.
“I support border security, but I think we need a little more definition of what the plan is,” he said. “I would propose we come up with a plan and then we can come up with when and how to fund it.”
Senate Democrats are also resisting the idea and said in a letter to Senate Republican leaders this week that they wouldn’t support funding for a border wall as part of must-pass spending legislation needed to keep the government open past April 28.
“First, many experts believe that such a border wall will not work. Second, there is real concern that the administration, put simply, has no plan to build the border wall,” said the letter from the top Senate Democrats including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
It noted that the administration hasn’t yet said how it would use eminent domain to acquire land from private owners; design, locate and construct the wall; or get Mexico to pay the bill, as Mr. Trump has repeatedly promised.
Mr. Trump has said the wall is necessary to secure the southern border, and administration officials say planning is under way.
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