President Donald Trump will ask Congress for $4.1 billion to start construction on a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, another significant step toward carrying out his signature – and most controversial – campaign promise.
The money is part of a $44 billion request for the Department of Homeland Security that will be used to hire 1,500 new immigration agents, expanded detention capacity. Millions more will be directed to the Department of Justice to hire more immigration judges, U.S. Marshals and border enofrcement prosecutors.
“Our southern border will be protected always. It will have the wall. Drugs will stop pouring in and poisoning our youth, and that will happen very, very soon,” Trump said during a campaign-style rally in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday night.
The Department of Homeland Security was one of the few government departments where Trump’s budget proposes an increase.
While the $1.15 trillion budget that Trump called “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” is likely “dead on arrival” because of opposition in Congress to many of its proposals, it provides a window into what the Trump administration’s priorities are likely to be for the next four – or possibly eight – years.
The multi-billion-dollar request is expected to kick off a major congressional showdown later this month or next about whether such a plan is a good use of taxpayer resources. Democrats largely oppose the building of the wall and so do some Republicans. It’s unclear whether a wall proposal can get the needed 60 votes in the Senate needed to overcome a likely Democratic filibuster.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., blasted for telling Americans that Mexico would pay for the wall, but now that they refused, calling on Americans to foot the bill. He accused Trump for prioritizing the wall over support for local and state law enforcement.
“The president’s budget for next year requests $2.6 billion, more than double the proposed cuts to the Justice Department, to build a wall along the Southern border,” Feinstein said. “President Bush tried this without success, and the wall is opposed by private landowners whose land would be seized to build it.”
Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, emphasized that the $4.6 billion is not enough to build the entire wall, but is a start. He said the president would first request $1.5 billion in a supplemental spending bill and $2.6 billion in his fiscal year 2018 budget.
Mulvaney said the budget proposal is a blueprint for carrying out what Trump promised to the American people during the campaign. It outlines how to the Trump administration proposes to pay for those promises, primarily by cutting foreign aid, environmental protection and the arts, among other programs.
But less than $5 billion is far from enough to carry out all the initiatives that he has promised supporters. Experts estimate that he would have to more than triple that amount to fund the wall, let alone expand detention and hire thousands more border patrol and immigration agents.
The wall will cost $8 billion to $10 billion or perhaps much more. Hiring new immigration agents will cost more billions. For comparison, the DHS’s 2017 budget request sought $7 billion to pay more than 40,000 officers.
In addition to the $4.1 billion for the wall, Trump has allocated for DHS $1.5 billion to construct and expand new detention facilities, $1.5 billion to improve security for government computer networks, $314 million to begin hiring 1,500 immigration agents and $15 million to implement a nationwide worker verification system that allows business to determine whether new hires are eligible to work in the United States.
Trump has also allocated $80 million to the Department of Justice to hire 75 additional immigration judges. He also wants to hire 60 additional border enforcement prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals to help apprehend and prosecute immigrants here illegally who have committed crimes.
Building the wall was hugely popular among Trump’s base, with supporters chanting “Build the Wall” regularly at rallies, and Trump has made it clear he intends to carry out promises to crack down on illegal immigration and bolster national security.
Trump has already taken steps to aimed at reducing the number of immigrants living illegally in the United States, estimated at 11 million. In a pair of executive orders signed days after his inauguration, Trump ordered the planning and construction to begin on the nearly 2,000 mile wall along the southern border. He also outlined plans to increase enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, clamp down on so-called sanctuary cities, boost the number of Border Patrol officers, and expand detention centers for those caught trying to sneak across the border.