Border Wall Funding Passes First Hurdle

( The GOP-led House finally is moving President Trump’s long-awaited promise of a border wall closer to reality.

Michael McCaul photo

Michael McCaul/Photo by eschipul (CC)

The president’s plans for a border wall have been subverted by a number of obstacles – the Senate refusal to green-light a $1.6 billion down payment for the wall, wavering estimates on the wall’s total cost and a lawsuit from California.

But legislation for the project now is advancing.

The House Homeland Security Committee cleared the Border Security for America Act of 2017, a bill that would authorize $10 billion for “tactical infrastructure” spending for a wall on the U.S.- Mexico border, Wednesday.

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It’s past time lawmakers get a handle on the border, Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who wrote the legislation, argued during the legislation markup hearing Wednesday.

“We’ve been talking about border security for so many years, and now we finally have a chance to get this done. We finally have a partner in the White House who has prioritized this issue,” McCaul said.

“The American people are threatened by international terrorists, human traffickers, drug smugglers, and transnational gangs like MS-13 who try to sneak into our country, bring harm to our communities, and disrupt our way of life,” he continued. “Allowing this to continue is completely unacceptable.”

Strategic building along certain sections of the U.S. Mexico border will protect national security, but a wall alone is not suffice, McCaul argued.

“While physical barriers and advanced technology are important parts of achieving our goal, this bill goes even further,” he said.

The bill also substantially beefs up border security with an array of attachments that will halt a future wave of illegal immigration.

The Border Security for America Act of 2017 would also:

  • Add 5,000 new Border Patrol agents to safeguard the border.
  • Add 5,000 new Customs and Border Protections officers to patrol the ports of entry.
  • Mandate the government complete the biometric entry-exit system that was created two decades ago.
  • Authorize governors to deploy their National Guard to help patrol the border.
  • Allocate waivers to speed up construction.
  • Allocate funding to local authorities in the U.S. and Mexico government for cooperation on border-related enforcement.

The bill, which was backed by Republicans in an 18-12 party-line vote, will now be sent to the full House of Representatives.

Democrats are railing against the bill. They claim the president has deceived Americans and violated his campaign promise by using taxpayer dollars to fund the wall and argue $10 billion for infrastructure won’t nearly cover the total cost of the wall.

Rep. Benni Thompson, D-Miss., the committee’s ranking Democrat, predicts funding for the wall will reach $70 billion.

“The bill before us would authorize Trump’s border wall at all costs,” he said during the debate. “I hope that after today, we can have a serious conversation about the border and move forward together in a productive manner.”

Democrats proposed amendments during the legislation markup to impede the construction of the wall.

“I strongly oppose Trump’s wall,” Rep. Filemo Vela, D-Texas, said during the hearing. “In fact, I would take a bulldozer to every inch of existing structure on the U.S.-Mexican border.”

Mocking Trump, Vela proposed an amendment to the border security bill that would put in law the language the president has used to describe his proposed border wall.

Vela’s amendment would have defined in law a border wall system as “a wall between the United States and Mexico that is,” among others, “big and beautiful,” “see-through,” “real,” “inclusive of a door,” “aesthetically-pleasing and consistent with the general surrounding environment,” and “paid for by the Mexican government.”

“I offer this amendment to provide the members of this committee the clearest picture to date of the conflicting and absurd vision that the president has for his wall,” he said. “A vote for this amendment is a vote for Donald Trump’s vision. A ‘yes’ vote on this amendment is a vote for his big, beautiful wall.”

Vela, who during the 2016 race recommended Trump “take your border wall and shove it up you’re a–,” also proposed an amendment to withhold any border wall funding from the federal government until it received a promise from Mexico to refund any expenditures.

His amendments failed.

Construction is already under way for eight prototypes of Trump’s promised wall.

PREVIOUSLY: Feds Push Ahead with Border Wall Despite Funding Questions

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection selected six companies to construct the prototypes last Tuesday, which the agency says are meant to “inform future design standards” for the wall.

“Progress check: construction of concrete wall prototypes is well underway in San Diego. #BorderSecurity,” the CBP tweeted Wednesday.

The border wall legislation comes amid a heated immigration debate surrounding the now-discontinued Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Last, month President Trump ended DACA, which gave younger illegal immigrants a temporary amnesty, allowing six months for the closure to take effect.

Lawmakers have until March to decide whether to grant permanent legal status to so-called “Dreamers.”

Congress and Trump appear ready to grant some type of amnesty or freedom to many of those in the program. Democrats are demanding a full pathway to citizenship for the nearly 800,000 Dreamers, while the GOP want border security measure attached to amnesty.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, warns granting amnesty for illegal immigrants in the DACA program will ultimately create “chain migration increases” and triple the illegal population to 1.4 million, as the parents and relatives of Dreamers enter the U.S.

Furthermore, the amnesty program would increase the estimated 12 million illegals in the U.S. to more than 14 million, Vaughan predicts.

“According to the most reliable research, recent immigrants have sponsored an average of 3.45 additional relatives,” Vaughan said during her before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. “I estimate that if 700,000 DACA beneficiaries receive lawful permanent residency status under an amnesty, then they can be expected to sponsor at least an additional 1.4 million relatives over time.”

“In this scenario, the award of LPR status would result in a second, de facto amnesty for the parents of DACA beneficiaries — the very individuals who brought their children to settle here illegally, creating this policy dilemma,” she continued. “Ultimately, an amnesty for DACA beneficiaries likely would produce more than two million new LPRs over 20 years.”

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