Ted Cruz wants El Chapo to pay for the wall

Experts say the proposal won’t actually work.

Ted Cruz's solution for border wall funding? Go on Chapo.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Ted Cruz's solution for border wall funding? Go on Chapo. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A bill proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would seize billions of dollars from drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to pay for President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Republican Senator has re-upped his legislation, named the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (EL CHAPO Act), in light of El Chapo’s conviction Tuesday and another potential government shutdown over funding border security on Friday.

“U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday.

The legislation was introduced by Cruz in the Senate on April 2017, with a similar bill proposed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), and has faced criticism from experts ever since.


El Chapo’s assets are located in Mexico, meaning any potential seizure by U.S. authorities would become a political battle between the countries. Mexican officials have repeatedly opposed the wall and dismissed any notion that it would ever pay for it.

Cruz estimates that El Chapo’s assets total $14 billion, but whatever the U.S. could potentially seize would be much less.

“The lion’s share of any of his assets seized, rightfully — by law and agreement — belong to Mexico.” Bruce M. Bagley, a University of Miami professor who has written a book on drug trafficking in the Americas, told USA Today. “They are unlikely to find much — certainly not $14 billion. Mexico will never agree.”

Bagley estimates that El Chapo is only worth roughly $2 to $4 billion dollars.

Cruz’s obsession with El Chapo paying for the wall is predicated on the myth that a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border would dramatically decrease the number of drugs coming into the United States.


As ThinkProgress has previously reported, the vast majority of drugs pass through legal ports of entry hidden in vehicles, or even tunnels, which a multi-billion dollar wall would not prevent.

“[To effectively smuggle drugs across the border as Trump suggests,] you would need to line up a huge number of humans and march them across the desert where their heat signature can be picked up,” Sanho Tree, the Director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Drug Policy Project, told ThinkProgress. “If you had a tunnel why would you risk this inefficient line of smuggling?”

The debate over who will pay for the wall — and whether or not it should be a convicted drug cartel leader — comes as Democrats and Republicans have reached a “tentative” agreement that would give President Trump $1.4 billion dollars in funding for his wall and keep the government open.