An Arizona congressman has introduced a measure that would help fund the construction of President Donald Trump’s promised border wall by trimming foreign aid to the home countries of those who illegally enter the United States.
Republican Rep. Andy Biggs says the legislation, dubbed the “Fund and Complete the Border Wall Act,” would penalize countries $2,000 in aid for each illegal alien caught crossing onto U.S. soil. Money from these penalties would then be redirected into a border wall fund.
“We have failed to secure the funds for the border wall. In the meantime, our Border Patrol agents suffer demoralizing losses of resources and personnel,” Biggs said in a statement. “We must fund, start, and complete the border wall without further delay.”
In addition, a new fee for international money transfers would be added, and foreign travelers filling out I-94 application forms would see an increase in fees, to $25 from $6. Biggs said these higher fees also would help fund salaries for Border Patrol employees.
On March 23, Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that included $654 billion in defense funding but only $1.6 billion for work on the border wall, which was one of his centerpiece campaign promises.
The $1.6 billion is far short of the estimated $25 billion needed to complete the wall and came with strings attached, prohibiting Trump from building the kind of structure he wants. The importance of the wall was made clear when Trump briefly threatened to veto the spending bill because of the low funding.
The newly introduced act also restores overtime pay for Border Patrol employees at the same rate as all other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) law-enforcement agencies. In addition, it instructs the DHS to take action in installing physical barriers and technology to prevent illegal crossings, as deemed necessary.
In an interview with Fox News, Biggs hit back at some who criticized his bill for “stealing” money from other governments.
“It’s foreign aid, it’s not stealing money. It’s money that we have been providing and many of these people are not crossing at ports of entry. They are not coming though legally trying to get into our country—they are breaking into our country,” he said.
In July, more than 31,300 illegal aliens were caught by Border Patrol between ports of entry on the southwest border, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics. In June, about 34,100 were caught.
In a July 3o post on Twitter, Trump voiced his frustration on the slow-moving border wall construction.
“We must have Border Security, get rid of Chain, Lottery, Catch & Release Sanctuary Cities – go to Merit based Immigration,” he wrote. “Protect ICE and Law Enforcement and, of course, keep building, but much faster, THE WALL!”
In 2017, about 303,916 people in total were apprehended by Border Patrol. Using those numbers, the new measure could essentially raise about $600 million annually. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the new legislation.
A barrier already exists in some places along the U.S.–Mexico border. Most illegal crossings occur in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, where the winding Rio Grande River acts as a natural border between the United States and Mexico.