President Donald Trump’s budget for next fiscal year envisions spending $2.7 billion for border security, including 74 miles of a border wall, most of it in Texas.
“We are absolutely dead serious about the wall,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday. “In fact, after taking care of national security and the vets, my guess is, it’s in the president’s top three. In fact, I know for a fact that it is.”
The White House had recently backed off initial spending on the wall as part of a measure that funds the federal government until Oct. 1, when Democrats refused to agree to the wall spending.
The proposed budget for the Department of Homeland Security calls for $1.6 billion to build 74 miles of wall, mostly in the Rio Grande Valley, including 28 miles to continue a levee wall in Hidalgo County that would control flooding as well as stop illegal crossings. The only segment outside Texas would be a 14-mile stretch slated for San Diego. There is already 654 miles of fencing on the U.S.- Mexico border.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is evaluating bids on prototypes for barriers.
Trump’s budget includes $1.5 billion for detention centers and transportation to return immigrants entering the U.S. illegally to their countries.
It also pays for technology such as surveillance balloons known as aerostats and 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents. “We do think there’s a role for technology, a role for additional people, all of which we asked for in this 2018 budget request,” said Mulvaney. “But it is absolutely a priority for the president.”
It is equally a priority for Democrats to fight the wall.
“A border wall would be expensive and mostly unhelpful – more of a political symbol than a tactical advantage,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. “It’s just not serious. I had hoped that the administration was beginning to see reason on this issue. However, they seem to still be clinging to campaign slogans, instead of digging into real policy solutions.”
Cuellar had been willing to support the levee wall after local officials backed it but he said that the local water district has now passed a resolution against it. He will meet with McAllen officials Friday, he said.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, referred to the total cost of the wall — estimated from $15 billion to $25 billion — and Trump’s campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for it: “Putting taxpayers on the hook to pay for it is just the latest brick in a wall of broken campaign promises. If we are going to pour billions into concrete, it ought to be an investment in ourselves, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure”
Republicans, however, with majorities in the House and Senate, have the numbers to approve the funding.
“I’m grateful to finally have a president committed to rebuilding our military, defending our borders and securing our great nation,” said U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who supports a “layered” approach on the border, not relying solely on a wall, chaired a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration.
“If we really want to secure our borders, and I think the voters in this last presidential election indicated they did, we must be willing to devote the necessary level of funding to achieve it,” Cornyn said.
The American-Statesman sent six reporters and photographers to the border to explore how President Donald Trump’s plans for a wall would affect life there. Here’s what they found: