The Trump administration has told lawmakers that it wants $18 billion over the next decade for the initial phase of a Mexico border wall, laying out for the first time a detailed financial blueprint for the president’s signature campaign promise.
The money would pay for 316 miles of new fencing and reinforce another 407 miles where barriers are already in place, according to cost estimates sent to senators Friday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If the work was completed, more than half of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico would have a wall or other physical structure by 2027.
Democratic lawmakers blasted the $18 billion request, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, and it arrived in the middle of delicate budget negotiations that include the risk of a government shutdown Jan. 20 if no deal is reached.
“President [Donald] Trump has said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall. With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee.
CBP provided the funding outline at the request of Durbin and other senators preparing to launch negotiations this month on several contentious immigration issues, including a potential deal to protect the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who will be subject to deportation when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expires, beginning in March.
With their votes needed to keep the government open, Democrats are looking to use their leverage in the spending talks to force the Republicans who control Congress to reach a deal on DACA.
Though Trump ran for office on a promise that Mexico would pay for a border wall, the spending plan indicates American taxpayers would fund it for at least the foreseeable future.
Trump has told Democrats he is unwilling to reach an agreement unless they fund his wall plan, among other measures, but the CBP document is the first time his administration has sketched out what that might cost.
In addition to the $18 billion in wall funding, the CBP also requested $8 billion for additional personnel and training, $5 billion for new border technology and at least $1 billion to build more access roads. The final price tag for the CBP spending plan would exceed $33 billion over the next decade, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post.
The $33 billion would not include what are likely to be additional funding requests for the other Department of Homeland Security agencies central to Trump’s plans for an immigration overhaul, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is looking to add 10,000 more officers and dramatically expand the number of beds it has available for immigration detention.
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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, Nick Miroff and Erica Werner