President Donald Trump’s efforts to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to stem the flood of illegal immigration and narcotics is running into stiff opposition.
In his first federal budget proposal to Congress, Trump asked lawmakers to approve $2.6 billion to begin construction of the nearly 2,000 mile border barrier, estmated to cost anywhere from $12 billion to $20 billion. But a number of influential members of Congress, including Republicans, object to restricting the flow of cheap labor favored by many corporations and ethnic advocacy groups.
“If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a pro-immigration liberal Republican who has already broken with Trump over his nominee for secretary of education.
“I don’t see how you can get a bill like that through (Congress) without offsets,” she added, referring to possible cuts in other areas of the budget.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Senate Republican who represents the border state of Texas, voiced skepticism about whether a wall would deter aliens from entering the country illegally.
“I have concerns about spending un-offset money, which adds to the debt, period,” Cornyn said bluntly. “I don’t think we’re just going to be able to solve border security with a physical barrier because people can come under, around it and through it.”
Trump’s barrier proposal requires that the wall extend six feet underground to prevent tunnelling. Trump has not suggested that the barrier should be the only deterrent. He has also called for beefing up the border patrol with equipment and personnel.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration is considering various methods to pay for the wall, such as imposing a tariff on Mexican imports, or a border crossing tax for non-citizens entering the U.S. from Mexico.
Meanwhile, various left-wing and Hispanic advocacy groups are marshaling forces to stop Congress from funding the wall. Nearly 60 members of Congress have voiced opposition to Trump’s border security plan, joining a coalition of left-wing groups who seek more immigration to the U.S. The coalition includes the League of United Latin American Citizens, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and an Hispanic environmentalist group calling itself GreenLatinos. A number of left-wing Catholic groups have joined the effort, too. They include the Franciscan Action Network, Pax Christi USA, Nuns on the Bus, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
At the same time, more than 100 retailers and business trade associations oppose any effort to fund border security with taxes on Mexican imports. Wal-Mart and Target as well as key trade associations are launching a new coalition aimed at fighting any proposal to tax imports. The National Retail Federation, along with the American International Automobile Dealers Association, the National Grocers Association and others are joining forces to form Americans for Affordable Products, which will run a campaign to convince lawmakers that a border import tax would hurt their profits.