President Donald Trump said Sunday he’d be willing to shut down the government if Democrats refuse to vote for his immigration proposals, including building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” Trump tweeted. “Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!
“We need great people coming into our Country!” Trump said.
Trump returned to the idea of shutting down the government over the border wall just days after meeting at the White House with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to discuss the fall legislative agenda.
McConnell, asked about a shutdown last week during a Kentucky radio interview, said it was not going to happen. He did acknowledge, however, that the border funding issue was unlikely to be resolved before the November midterm elections.
Trump campaigned on the promise of building a border wall to deter illegal immigration and making Mexico pay for it. Mexico has refused.
Congress has given the president some wall funding but not as much as he has requested. Trump also wants changes to legal immigration, including scrapping a visa lottery program. In addition, he wants to end the practice of releasing immigrants caught entering the country illegally on the condition that they show up for court hearings.
Trump has also demanded that the U.S. shift to an immigration system that’s based more on merit and less on family ties.
Democrats and some Republicans have objected to some of the changes Trump seeks.
The federal budget year ends Sept. 30, and lawmakers will spend much of August in their states campaigning for re-election in November. The House is now in a five-week recess, returning after Labor Day. The Senate remains in session and is set to take a one-week break the week of Aug. 6, then returning for the rest of the month.
Both chambers will have short window of working days to approve a spending bill before government funding expires.
Trump would be taking a political risk if he does, in fact, allow most government functions to lapse on Oct. 1 — the first day of the new budget year — roughly a month before the Nov. 6 elections, when Republican control of both the House and Senate is at stake.
House Republicans released a spending bill this month that provides $5 billion next year to build Trump’s wall, a major boost.
Democrats have long opposed financing Trump’s wall but lack the votes by themselves to block House approval of that amount. But they have the strength to derail legislation in the closely divided Senate. Without naming a figure, Trump said in April that he would “have no choice” but to force a government shutdown this fall if he doesn’t get the border security money he wants.
The $5 billion is well above the $1.6 billion in the Senate version of the bill, which would finance the Homeland Security Department. The higher amount matches what Trump has privately sought in conversations with Republican lawmakers, according to a GOP congressional aide who wasn’t authorized to publicly talk about private discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Two leading Democrats — Reps. Nita Lowey of New York and California’s Lucille Roybal-Allard — called the $5 billion a waste that “only further enables this administration’s obsession with cruel attacks on immigrants.”
Separately Sunday, Trump tweeted that there are “consequences when people cross our Border illegally” and claimed that many who do so are “using children for their own sinister purposes.”
Trump’s tweet came several days after the government said more than 1,800 children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy have been reunited with parents and sponsors. A federal judge had ordered the reunions to be completed by last Thursday but hundreds of children remain separated. The administration says some of their parents have criminal histories.
“Please understand, there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally, whether they have children or not – and many are just using children for their own sinister purposes,” Trump said.
He also said Congress must fix “the DUMBEST & WORST immigration laws anywhere in the world!” and urged voters to “Vote ‘R’” in November.
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.
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President Donald Trump hailed the start of his long-sought southern border wall this past week, proudly tweeting photos of the “WALL!” Actually, no new work got underway. The photos showed the continuation of an old project to replace two miles of existing barrier.
Trump and his officials departed from reality on a variety of subjects: the census, Amazon’s practices on taxation and the makeup of the Supreme Court among them. Here’s a look at some statements in recent days and their veracity:
TRUMP: “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: Trump is misrepresenting both Amazon’s record on taxes and the U.S. Postal Service’s financial situation.
People who buy products sold by Amazon pay sales tax in all states that have a sales tax. Not all third-party vendors using Amazon collect it, however.
As for the post office, package delivery has been a bright spot for a service that’s lost money for 11 straight years. The losses are mostly due to pension and health care costs — not the business deal for the Postal Service to deliver packages for Amazon. Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit increases in revenue from delivering packages, but that hasn’t been enough to offset declines in first-class letters and marketing mail, which together make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.
While the Postal Service’s losses can’t be attributed to its package business, Trump’s claim that it could get more bang for its buck may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup concluded that the Postal Service was charging below-market rates as a whole for parcels. Trump is sore about Amazon because its owner, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, one of the targets of his “fake news” tweets.
TRUMP: “Great briefing this afternoon on the start of our Southern Border WALL!” — tweet Wednesday, showing photos of workers building a fence.
TRUMP: “We’re going to be starting work, literally, on Monday, on not only some new wall — not enough, but we’re working that very quickly — but also fixing existing walls and existing acceptable fences.” — Trump, speaking the previous week after signing a bill financing the government.
THE FACTS: Trump’s wrong. No new work began on Monday or any other time this past week. And the photos Trump tweeted were misleading. They showed work that’s been going on for more than a month on a small border wall replacement project in Calexico, California, that has nothing to do with the federal budget he signed into law last week.
The Calexico project that began Feb. 21 to replace a little more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of border wall was financed during the 2017 budget year. A barrier built in the 1990s mainly from recycled metal scraps is being torn down and replaced with bollard-style barriers that are 30 feet (9.1 meters) high.
Ronald D. Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, defended the president’s statements, saying Friday “there’s construction” underway.
TRUMP: “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!” — tweets Sunday and Monday.
THE FACTS: Trump is floating the idea of using “M″ — the Pentagon’s military budget — to pay for his wall with Mexico. Such a move would almost certainly require approval from Congress and there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical about the notion of diverting military money for this purpose.
Only Congress has the power under the Constitution to determine federal appropriations, leaving the Trump administration little authority to shift money without lawmakers’ approval.
Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood referred all questions on the wall to the White House. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to reveal specifics, but said Trump would work with the White House counsel to make sure any action taken was within his executive authority.
DAVID SHULKIN, citing reasons Trump fired him as veterans affairs secretary: “I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way. But despite these politically based attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity.” — op-ed Thursday in The New York Times.
THE FACTS: His statement that he and his family were subjected to politically based attacks is disingenuous, though politics contributed to his dismissal.
White House support for Shulkin eroded after a blistering report in February by VA’s internal watchdog, a non-partisan office. The inspector general’s office concluded that he had violated ethics rules by accepting free Wimbledon tennis tickets. The inspector general also said Shulkin’s chief of staff had doctored emails to justify bringing the secretary’s wife to Europe with him at taxpayer expense.
It is true, though, that Shulkin had encountered resistance from about a half-dozen political appointees at the VA and White House who rebelled against him. In an extraordinary telephone call, John Ullyot, a top communications aide, and VA spokesman Curt Cashour asked the Republican staff director of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to push for Shulkin’s removal after the release of the inspector general’s report. The staff director declined to do so. Those political appointees were not involved in drafting the inspector general’s report.
Shulkin expressed regret for the “distractions” caused by the report and agreed to pay more than $4,000 to cover the costs of his wife’s coach airfare and the Wimbledon tickets. He continues to insist he did nothing wrong and point to what his staff did in doctoring his emails as a “mistake.”
TRUMP: “THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED! As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: As a basics civics lesson, Trump’s tweet falls short. The Supreme Court is the unelected branch of government and no party can “hold” it. That said, both parties try to win confirmation of justices who are considered likely to vote the way they want.
Republican-nominated justices have formed a majority of the Supreme Court for nearly 50 years. The five more conservative justices were appointed by Republicans while the four more liberal justices were Democratic nominees.
Republicans would have the opportunity to cement ideological balance in their favor if Justice Anthony Kennedy — the most moderate of the conservatives — or one of the older and more liberal justices were to retire with Trump in office and Republicans in control of the Senate.
Trump was citing retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who called in a New York Times article for repeal of the Second Amendment to allow for gun control legislation. Democratic leaders are not proposing repeal of the amendment, as Trump implies. Also noteworthy: Stevens was nominated by a Republican president, Gerald Ford.
WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN SARAH SANDERS, on the Trump administration’s decision to ask people about their citizenship in the 2020 census: “This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965 with the exception of 2010, when it was removed. … And again, this is something that has been part of the census for decades and something that the Department of Commerce felt strongly needed to be included again.” — press briefing Tuesday.
COMMERCE DEPARTMENT: “Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.” — statement on Monday.
THE FACTS: Sanders is incorrect. The Commerce Department statement is also problematic. Both are trying to play down the risk of a severe undercount of the population if many immigrants, intimidated by the citizenship question, refuse to participate.
The Census Bureau hasn’t included a citizenship question in its once-a-decade survey sent to all U.S. households since 1950, before the Civil Rights era and passage of a 1965 law designed to help ensure minority groups in the count are fully represented.
The nation’s count is based on the total resident population — both citizens and noncitizens — and used to determine how many U.S. representatives each state gets in the U.S. House.
The citizenship question was not in the 1960 census, according to a copy of the form posted on the Census Bureau website, and no census was held in 1965.
From 1970 to 2000, the question was included only in the long-form section of the census survey, sent to a portion of U.S. households. After 2000, the question has been asked on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a separate poll designed to replace the census long form and sent only to a sample of U.S. households.
The Commerce Department’s assertion that the citizenship question was asked on “almost” every decennial census between 1820 and 1950 also pushes the limits of reality. According to the Census Bureau, the question wasn’t asked in four of those censuses —1840, 1850, 1860 or 1880.
Between 1820 and 1950, a total of 14 censuses were held. That means more than 1 in 4 surveys during that time period lacked the citizenship question.
Not exactly “almost.”
Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Cal Woodward in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
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Talks over a $1.3 trillion government spending bill neared completion Wednesday as the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats ironed out deals on a first round of funding for President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall.
GOP aides said early Wednesday that Trump would win $1.6 billion for border wall and other physical barriers along the border, which would construct older wall designs, but that he would be denied a more recent, far larger $25 billion request for multi-year funding for the wall project. Democrats said just $641 million would go to new segments of fencing and walls that double as levees.
Negotiators planned to officially unveil the massive government-wide spending bill later in the day in hopes of passing it before a Friday midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown. A temporary funding bill to keep operations going this weekend might be required.
The top four leaders of both House and Senate are slated to meet Wednesday morning to try to seal the agreement, aides said.
The bill would give Trump a huge budget increase for the military, while Democrats would cement wins on infrastructure and other domestic programs that they failed to get under President Barack Obama.
The aides required anonymity because the agreement is not yet public.
Battles over budget priorities in the huge bill were all settled, while a handful of non-budget issues remained, including a GOP effort to fix a poorly drafted section of the recent tax cut law that is harming Midwestern grain companies.
Another fight, resolved in Trump’s favor, would remove an earmark for a rail tunnel under the Hudson River that’s a top priority of Trump’s most powerful Democratic rival, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The project would remain eligible for funding, but would have to compete with dozens of other rail and transit projects sought by other states.
The measure on the table would provide major funding increases for the Pentagon — $80 billion over current limits — bringing the military budget to $700 billion and giving GOP defense hawks a long-sought victory.
“We made a promise to the country that we would rebuild our military. Aging equipment, personnel shortages, training lapses, maintenance lapses — all of this has cost us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “With this week’s critical funding bill we will begin to reverse that damage.”
Domestic accounts would get a generous 10 percent increase on average as well, awarding Democrats the sort of spending increases they sought but never secured during the Obama administration.
Democrats touted almost $4 billion in total funding to fight the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, an almost $3 billion increase. More than $2 billion would go to strengthen school safety through grants for training, security measures and treatment for the mentally ill. Medical research at the National Institutes of Health, a longstanding bipartisan priority, would receive a record $3 billion increase to $37 billion.
Community development block grants, which are flexible funds that are enormously popular with mayors and other local officials, appear set for a record increase despite being marked for elimination in Trump’s budget plan. And an Obama-era transportation grant program would see its budget tripled to $1.5 billion instead of being eliminated as Trump requested.
“We have worked to restore and in many cases increase investments in education, health care, opioids, NIH, child care, college affordability and other domestic and military priorities,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a key negotiator of the measure.
Agencies historically unpopular with Republicans, such as the IRS, appear likely to get increases too, in part to prepare for implementation of the Republicans’ recently passed tax measure. The Environmental Protection Agency, always a GOP target, would have its budget frozen at $8 billion.
Lawmakers agreed on the broad outlines of the budget plan last month, after a standoff forced an overnight shutdown. The legislation implementing that deal is viewed as possibly one of few bills moving through Congress this year, making it a target for lawmakers and lobbyists seeking to attach their top priorities.
But efforts to add on unrelated legislation to tackle politically charged issues, such as immigration and rapidly rising health insurance premiums, appeared to fail.
One involved a bid to extend protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants brought to the country as children. And while Democrats yielded on $1.6 billion in wall funding, none of that money would go for the new prototypes that Trump recently visited in San Diego. Negotiators rejected Trump’s plans to hire hundreds of new Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents, congressional aides said.
The bill would add $143 billion over limits set under a 2011 budget and debt pact that forced automatic budget cuts on annual agency appropriations. Coupled with last year’s tax cuts, it heralds the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits as soon as the budget year starting in October.
Republican conservatives are dismayed by the free-spending measure, which means Democratic votes are required to pass it. That gave Democrats leverage to force GOP negotiators to drop numerous policy riders that Democrats considered poison pills.
President Donald Trump says he’s open to an immigration plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally.
“We’re going to morph into it,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.”
Trump’s pronouncements came as the White House announced it would unveil a legislative framework on immigration next week that it hopes can pass both the House and the Senate. The president’s remarks amounted to a preview of that framework. He said he’ll propose $25 billion for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and $5 billion for other security measures.
But immediately after Trump spoke, a senior White House official stressed the idea of a pathway to citizenship so-called Dreamers was just a “discussion point” in the plan that the White House intended to preview to the House and Senate.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the administration’s thinking on a contentious issue that has roiled lawmakers for months.
Despite his previously harsh rhetoric, Trump told reporters he had a message for the Dreamers: “Tell ’em not to be concerned, OK? Tell ’em not to worry. We’re going to solve the problem.”
Trump has said repeatedly that any deal to protect those immigrants from deportation is contingent on money for the border wall and other security measures. Trump also wants to limit the family members that immigrants are able to sponsor to join them in the U.S. and either replace or transform a visa lottery aimed at increasing diversity.
Trump has given Congress until March to come up with a plan to protect the nearly 700,000 young people who had been protected from deportation and given the right to work legally in the country under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Trump announced he was ending DACA last year.
Trump expressed confidence a deal can be reached on the issue, and said he’d like to see one hammered out by the time he returns from Davos, Switzerland, on Friday. John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, stayed in Washington, to help work out an immigration deal, said White House spokesman Raj Shah.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier Wednesday that the framework to be unveiled Monday “represents a compromise that members of both parties can support.”
The White House was trying to take control of the process amid criticism that the president had taken too much of a back seat during recent negotiations and had sent mixed signals that repeatedly upended near-deals.
“The president wants to lead on this issue, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Sanders said.
Trump had previously ruled out the idea of citizenship for the immigrants known as Dreamers, saying last September: “We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”
But he said Wednesday that providing an opportunity for citizenship had its positives. “I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of after a period of years being able to become a citizen,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the Hill, senators from both parties were making a fresh search for their own compromise immigration legislation, though leaders conceded that the effort wouldn’t be easy and were already casting blame should it falter.
Around three dozen senators from both parties met privately Wednesday, and two top lawmakers said they’d try crafting a compromise bill based on colleagues’ suggestions. The goal is to produce consensus legislation that would be the starting point for Senate debate on immigration, which is expected to begin Feb. 8, said Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., their parties’ No. 2 leaders.
“We’re the Senate, we have our own responsibility under the Constitution and we decided in this room to move forward,” Durbin said afterward. “If the president has some ideas he’d like to share, of course we’ll take a look at them.”
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement that he was “extremely pleased with the number of senators — from both sides of the aisle” — who had accepted his invitation. “My hope is that we can reach an agreement before February 8,” he said.
The senior White House officially did not know about the meeting, which was underway at the time, and said the president and Graham were not on the same page.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has vowed not to “let those who are anti-immigrant, who call giving the Dreamers hope ‘amnesty,’ block us. Because then we will fail, and it will be on the other side of the aisle that made that happen.”
Sanders said the White House framework is based on dozens of conversations Trump and his staff have had with members of both parties and that “it addresses all of the different things that we’ve heard from all of the various stakeholders” during the past several months.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said Trump called him Wednesday morning and wants to provide “dependability for these kids,” but still expects a deal to include money for border security and his promised southern wall, to limit immigrants’ ability to sponsor family members and to end a visa lottery aimed at diversity.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said if senators cannot produce a compromise plan by Feb. 8, he would open a debate on immigration legislation that would be “fair to all sides.” That suggests both parties would be allowed to offer amendments.
Feb. 8 is the date legislation expires that reopened the government after a three-day shutdown, which began after Democrats demanded movement toward an immigration deal as the price for financing federal agencies.
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Money for the wall President Donald Trump wants to build along the U.S. border with Mexico must be part of the massive spending bill Congress is preparing, the White House budget director says.
Additional funding also must be included to hire more immigration agents, Mick Mulvaney told The Associated Press in an interview in which he laid out the top priorities of the president.
Lawmakers hope to unveil the catchall spending bill next week. Democratic negotiators are likely to resist providing the down payment that Mulvaney says Trump wants for construction of the wall, but the former GOP congressman from South Carolina adds that “elections have consequences.”
Mulvaney also said the administration is open, though undecided, about a key Democratic demand that the measure pay for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under the Affordable Care Act.
The $1 trillion-plus legislation is leftover business from last year’s election-season gridlock and would cover the operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Veterans Affairs.
Talks on the measure have hit a rough patch as a deadline to avert a government shutdown looms late next week. Trump’s presidency is approaching the symbolic 100-day mark, but his GOP allies in Congress have been tempering expectations that the president would emerge as a big winner.
Democratic votes are likely to be needed to pass whatever bill emerges from the talks, and Senate Democrats could bottle it up entirely if they object to provisions that they deem to be “poison pills” — such as the money for the wall. Trump campaigned for president on the promise of building the wall and sticking Mexico with the tab.
GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are eager to avert a shutdown, and the slow pace may make it necessary to enact another temporary spending bill to avert a shutdown next weekend. Mulvaney’s hard line could foreshadow a protracted impasse and increases the chances of a government shutdown.
“A shutdown is never a desired end and neither is it a strategy,” Mulvaney said.
Democrats are confident that Republicans, controlling both House and Senate, would bear the blame for any shutdown, even as Democrats wield power in the talks.
“We have the leverage and they have the exposure,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told fellow Democrats on a Thursday conference call, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Mulvaney said the White House delivered an offer to negotiators Wednesday night, with funding for the border wall a top demand. Other items on the White House priority list, Mulvaney said, are a $30 billion request for a cash infusion for the military and a controversial provision to give the administration greater latitude to deny certain federal grants to “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities.
“We want wall funding. We want (immigration) agents. Those are our priorities,” Mulvaney said. “We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don’t like the wall, but they lost the election. And the president should, I think, at least have the opportunity to fund one of his highest priorities in the first funding bill under his administration.”
He said the wall is “something that’s a tremendous priority for us and that clearly was a seminal issue in the 2016 presidential race.” In spite of Trump’s promise, the cost of a border wall, expected to exceed $20 billion, would likely be borne by taxpayers. And some Republicans are opposed to the wall as well, instead preferring to spend more on technologies such as sensors and drone aircraft to beef up border security.
Democrats have taken a hard line against any money for the border wall and insist that the measure include the “Obamacare” payments to insurance companies.
At issue are cost-sharing payments that are a key subsidy under the health care law to help low-income people enrolled through the law’s insurance marketplaces with their out-of-pocket expenses. Trump has threatened to withhold the payments as a means to force Democrats to negotiate on health care legislation.
The cost-sharing payments are the subject of a lawsuit by House Republicans, and Trump threatened in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week to drop the payments, which experts warn would severely disrupt Obamacare’s marketplaces.
Mulvaney said the White House isn’t enthusiastic about Democratic demands on the Obamacare payments but is open to them as part of a broader agreement.
“The president has been quoted several times and said he’s inclined not to make them and I can’t tell you that I’m interested in dissuading him from that position,” Mulvaney said. “That being said, if it’s important enough to the Democrats, we’d be happy to talk to them about including that in sort of some type of compromise.”
Added Mulvaney: “If Democrats are interested and serious about compromise and negotiation, the ball is in their court.”
“Everything had been moving smoothly until the administration moved in with a heavy hand,” countered Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Not only are Democrats opposed to the wall, there is significant Republican opposition as well.”
President Donald Trump has now laid out exactly what he wants in the “big, beautiful wall” that he’s promised to build on the U.S.-Mexico border. But his effort to build a huge barrier to those attempting to enter the U.S. illegally faces impediments of its own.
It’s still not clear how Trump will pay for the wall that, as described in contracting notices, would be 30 feet (9 meters) high and easy on the eye for those looking at it from the north. The Trump administration will also have to contend with unfavorable geography and many legal battles.
A look at some of those obstacles:
Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his wall, a demand Mexico has repeatedly rejected. Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress, a preliminary draft that was light on details, asked lawmakers for a $2.6 billion down payment for the wall. An internal report prepared for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly estimated that a wall along the entire border would cost about $21 billion. Congressional Republicans have estimated a more moderate price tag of $12 billion to $15 billion. Trump himself has suggested a cost of about $12 billion.
It’s unclear how much money Congress will approve. Lawmakers have been balking at his plans to sharply cut other federal spending to pay for the wall and other boosts to border security, while increasing military spending. White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters this past week that the administration was still looking at how the wall would be funded, adding that it hasn’t given up on Mexico footing the bill.
Roughly half of the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border is in Texas and marked by the winding and twisting Rio Grande. A 1970 treaty with Mexico requires that anything built near that river not obstruct its flow. The same treaty applies to a stretch of border in Arizona, where the Colorado River marks the international boundary.
Some fencing that is already in place along the frontier is built well off the river, in some places nearly a mile (about a kilometer) away from the border.
Trump will have to navigate not only the treaty maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission but also various environmental regulations that protect some stretches of border and restrict what kind of structures can be built and where. The contracting notices of March 17 say the Trump administration wants the wall dug at least 6 feet (almost 2 meters) into the ground. Along parts of the border in California, environmentally sensitive sand dunes required that a “floating fence” was built to allow the natural movement of the sand.
Nearly all of the land along the Texas border is privately held — much of it by people whose families have been in the region for generations — and buying their land won’t be easy, as Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama discovered. Lawyers for both administrations fought in court with private landowners. Obama’s efforts to buy privately held land in the Rio Grande Valley have carried over into Trump’s term.
The Trump administration appears to be preparing for the legal fight and included a request for more lawyers to handle such cases in its budget proposal. Spicer said this past week the administration would “take the steps necessary” to fulfill Trump’s promise to secure the southern border.
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Donald Trump would try to force Mexico to pay for a border wall by targeting billions of dollars in remittances sent by immigrants living in the U.S., according to a memo released by his campaign Tuesday.
The memo outlines in new detail how Trump would try to compel Mexico to pay for the 1,000-mile wall he’s promised to build along the Southern border if he becomes president.
In his proposal, Trump threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law, to cut off a portion of the funds sent to Mexico through money transfers known as remittances. His plan would also bar non-Americans from wiring money outside of the U.S. unless they can provide documentation establishing their legal status in the country.
Trump said he would withdraw the threat if Mexico makes a one-time payment to finance the wall.
“It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year,” the memo reads.
“Good luck with that,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday in response to questions about Trump’s proposal. He warned of the ramifications such a plan would have on the Mexican economy which, in turn, would drive more immigrants to cross the border in search of jobs.
“People expect the president of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analyzed are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account,” Obama said. “They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House. We can’t afford that.”
The billionaire businessman has estimated his proposed wall would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion, and has argued that it would protect the country from illegal border crossings as well as halting drug shipment. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has said his country will not pay for any such wall.
The U.S. is home to about 12 million Mexicans, some living here illegally, according to various research organizations that monitor trends in immigration. They and other migrants use money transfer agents or banks to send money home, often with the objective of supporting their families.
The Mexican central bank reported that money sent home by Mexicans overseas hit nearly $24.8 billion last year, overtaking oil revenues for the first time as a source of foreign income. Cutting off those transfers would therefore represent a significant blow to the Mexican economy.
The memo also lists other potential areas for leverage, including threats of trade tariffs, cancelling visas – including targeting “business and tourist visas for important people in the Mexican economy” – and increasing visa fees, including includes fees on border crossing cards.
The release of the memo was first reported by the Washington Post early Tuesday, the same day as the Wisconsin primary. Trump has been trailing rival Ted Cruz in the state in some recent opinion surveys.
This is not the first time that Trump has spelled out options for pressuring Mexico into paying for his signature policy proposal.
In an immigration overhaul plan released in August, Trump’s campaign suggested a number of options for compelling Mexico to pay for the wall. Those included impounding “all remittance payments derived from illegal wages,” increasing fees on temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats — “and if necessary cancel them” — increasing fees on border crossing cards, increasing fees on NAFTA worker visas from Mexico, and increasing fees at ports of entry between the two countries.
“Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options,” the immigration paper stated.
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to questions, including whether he still envisions impounding any money. It is also unclear whether Trump would seek any input from Congress. He and other Republicans have long criticized Obama for relying too heavily on executive orders to ram through his agenda.
Under the Patriot Act, a government-issued identification is already required for routine money transfers in the United States. For high-dollar transactions additional documentation or identification can be required.
According to Matt Chandler, a former deputy chief of staff at the Homeland Security Department, financial institutions must know their customers and are required to routinely share information with the government to ensure that their banking services aren’t being used to launder money or fund terrorism.
Trump’s wall is his signature policy proposal – and mere mention of the word elicits booming cheers and applause at his rallies, where supporters sometimes dress in wall shirts and costumes. Trump often leads call-and-response sessions where he asks his audience who will pay for the wall.
“Mexico!” they thunder in response.
Colvin reported from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Mexico City, and Kathleen Hennessey, Alicia A. Caldwell, Deb Riechmann and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
Donald Trump’s ambitious plan to build a giant wall on the border hits close to home for people like Berenice Andrews.
The front door of her family’s home is just feet away from a fence separating the U.S. and Mexico. The home is so close to Mexico that the sounds of schoolchildren at play south of the border can be heard. So can buses along a main thoroughfare on the Mexico side.
As the presidential contest shifts to Arizona and its Tuesday primary, Trump’s wall stirs up a range of emotions among border-area residents like Andrews. For some, nothing short of a wall will do. For her, the fence that currently divides the U.S. and Mexico is a good enough barrier.
“For him to even propose something like that is complete insanity,” Andrews said.
Trump has not provided specifics the wall but says it would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion, and has said he would make Mexico pay for it. Mexico has scoffed at the idea.
There are already about 650 miles of fencing, including the steel fence that divides the sister cities of Nogales in Arizona and Mexico and ranges from 18 feet to 26 feet tall. Much of the border was built in the last 15 years as immigration surged. The cost has been in the billions.
The Associated Press interviewed people who live on the border to get their perspective on Trump’s border wall plan:
GUNS AT THE READY
Everywhere Jim Chilton goes on his sprawling cattle ranch along the Mexican border in Arizona, he has a gun at the ready. Guns at his front door. Guns in his pickup truck. Guns on his horse’s saddle.
For Chilton, illegal immigration and drug smuggling isn’t just something he hears about on the news. He lives with it every day as smugglers routinely cross the border on his property. He supports just about anything to stop it, including Trump’s plan to build a wall from one end of the border to the other.
“We need a wall. We need forward operation bases. We need Border Patrol to be down there all the time,” Chilton said. “We just need to secure that international boundary at the border, period.”
While Chilton hasn’t decided who he’ll vote for in the presidential election, he certainly supports the idea of building a wall.
“I’m tired of having thousands of people coming through my ranch. I worry about running into a guy with an AK-47 and a bunch of druggers behind him,” Chilton said. “The United States needs to secure its international boundary.”
BOTHERED IN BISBEE
Artist Kate Drew-Wilkinson lives in Bisbee, AZ, where she owns a gallery a few miles north of the border. Drew-Wilkinson opposes Trump and his wall proposal, saying he’s a bully who is dangerous to the United States.
“I don’t think he has a real understanding of the geography or the sheer difficulty of building a wall of that kind,” she said. “And it’s ugly. The whole thing is really ugly.”
Drew-Wilkinson, an England native who moved to the U.S. in the late 1960s, wouldn’t reveal who she would be voting for but said it definitely wouldn’t be Trump.
RANCHER WANTS A WALL, TRUMP
John Ladd is a cattle rancher whose roughly 15,000 acre ranch abuts the border near Naco, Arizona. Immigrants and drug smugglers frequently sneak into the country on his property, cutting his barbed-wire fences and leaving behind garbage.
He is sick of politics as usual and finds Trump’s lack of political correctness refreshing. He isn’t bothered by Trump’s lack of specifics about how he’d build a wall.
He simply likes that Trump has been talking about illegal immigration since the beginning of his campaign.
“That really rang a bell with me and a lot of the ranchers, that finally we had somebody in the political arena that wasn’t worried about being politically correct and talked about the problem that is actually happening,” he said.
Ladd said he isn’t sure the wall will ever actually be built but said he believes Trump will enforce immigration laws.
Hector Orozco has a unique perspective on the border debate because of his occupation and past party affiliation.
He manages manufacturing company south of the border with offices on the American side, making campaign debates about foreign trade especially relevant. He is also an immigrant from Mexico who became a U.S. citizen and traditionally voted Republican.
As of late, though, Orozco said he can’t get behind the party and its ideology. To him, America’s biggest challenge is the deficit and the economy, not illegal immigration.
“It’s like they’re trying to distract us from the bigger problems,” he said. “(Illegal immigration) is a problem but it’s not the biggest problem.”
And he said a wall wouldn’t resolve immigration problems in any way.
“People will find a way to improve their lives,” Orozco said. “Regardless of how big the wall is, they’re gonna look for a way because they’re gonna want to make a better life for their family. Not all who cross are criminals.”