The background

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President with racist claims about Mexican immigrants, saying “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” and promising to erect a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Throughout the campaign, “build a wall” became a rallying cry for Trump supporters. President Trump claimed Mexico would pay for the wall, a plan Mexico’s government has repeatedly rejected. A 2017 Department of Homeland Security report estimated the wall would cost American taxpayers $21.6 billion, but estimates range up to $70 billion. This is an extraordinary amount – the entire proposed  FY19 foreign aid budget is $27.7 billion.

The wall proposal has also sparked diplomatic and economic tensions with Mexico and Central American countries. The President has also imposed tariffs on the country’s steel production, claiming Mexico posed a national security risk. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner and the second-largest purchaser of American exports.

In July 2017, the House passed the Make America Secure Appropriations Bill, which authorized $1.6 billion in U.S. tax dollars for wall construction, but the measure was never brought to a vote in the Senate. Eight months later, the President signed into law H.R.1625, a shutdown-avoiding appropriations measure that authorized the same $1.6 billion for fence repair and security improvements.

Worse still, the President has repeatedly used children as a bargaining chip to secure wall funding, first holding hostage recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, an Obama-era order granting temporary legal status for children who immigrated illegally with their parents, and later asking Congress to fund the border wall through legislation to end his inhumane child separation policy. The House rejected the bill by a vote of 121-301.

The Latest

In December 2018, the debate over funding for the the border wall escalated in advance of a December 21 deadline before a partial government shutdown. On December 11, 2018 President Trump publicly argued with Congressional Democratic leadership and declared that he would be “proud” to shut the government down if it meant he would receive border wall funding.

The House and Senate each considered a series of short-term spending bills, but failed to reach a compromise that  President Trump would agree to sign. This resulted in a 35 day partial government shutdown, the longest in American history. The shutdown affected about 800,000 federal workers including TSA and 9 federal agencies. Five-weeks after President Trump shutdown the government he signed three-week spending bill to reopen the government while a final spending deal was negotiated, this temporary extension did not include any border wall funding

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The final FY2019 spending bill signed in February of 2019 included a border security compromise for $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the Texas border, far less than the initial $5.7 billion for 234 miles of steel wall that the administration had requested.

The day after signing the final FY2019 spending bill , President Trump declared a “national emergency” on the U.S. southern border and stated his intent to spend $8 billion dollars on the wall. The $8 billion, the White House announced, would come from the $1.375 trillion allocated in the budget, the U.S. Treasury and the Pentagon. Both chambers of congress passed with bipartisan support a resolution disapproving of the “national emergency” declaration.

During the battle over border wall funding in December 2018, the Trump administration announced its “Remain in Mexico” policy. This policy requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico as they await their court hearings. This policy was first applied at the San Diego/Tijuana border crossing and in March 2019 and was later expanded to the El Paso border crossing.

Even amidst threats to close the border entirely, immigration numbers at the southern border have surged. In the first two months of 2019 alone there were over 250,000 people apprehended at the Southern Border between ports of entry. In FY 2018 Customs and Border Protection apprehended a total of just under 400,000 people trying to enter the U.S. between ports of entry.

These rising immigration numbers, specifically from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala led President Trump to call to end all aid to those countries in April 2019. The money allocated to Central America, $2.1 billion in 2016, went to fight the root causes of immigration, experts say this move cut off aid will only exacerbate the migrant crisis at the southern border.  

WHAT YOU CAN DO

We’re asking Congress to vote against measures that would appropriate funds to build President Trump’s border wall and to support policies that enhance a mutually beneficial relationship with the people of Mexico and Central America. Call your representatives and Senators at (202) 224-3121 to urge them to not give in to Trump’s demands.

Here are a couple key things to say:

  • Building President Trump’s wall, rooted in his racist campaign rhetoric, will have little to no impact on drug trafficking, which largely passes through legal ports of entry, or illegal immigration, the majority of which results from visa overstays.

  • As one Republican member of Congress put it, the wall is “a third-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” There is bipartisan support for sensible immigration reform, but President Trump’s wall is not the way forward.

  • Investing in programs in Central America that empower women and girls, help keep vulnerable youth out of gangs, and create economic opportunities, is smart policy – it’s less expensive than building a wall, and is consistent with American values.

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