During a news conference at Camp David on Saturday, President Trump made clear that he is unwilling to talk about providing legal protections for the nearly 800,000 Dreamers in the country unless Democrats agree to spend tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on a border wall.
“We want the wall — the wall is going to happen or we’re not going to have DACA,” Trump said. “We want DACA to happen, but we also want great security for our country… So we have to get rid of the lottery system, we have to get rid of chain migration, we have to have the wall.”
While Trump’s statement suggests he views the border wall as a security necessity, comments he made during a conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto days after his inauguration indicate Trump’s motivation for pushing for the wall has to do with politics, not national security.
During that January 27 conversation, a transcript of which was leaked to the Washington Post, Trump characterized the wall as “the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important [thing we] talk about.”
When Nieto indicated his government has no interest in helping Trump fulfill his campaign promise by paying for the wall, Trump said he understood, but couldn’t say so publicly, and urged Nieto to do the same.
“You cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall,” Trump told Nieto. “I am just going to say that we are working it out.”
— Ali A. Rizvi (@aliamjadrizvi) August 3, 2017
Nieto has been resolute that Mexico will not help pay for the wall, but during Saturday’s news conference at Camp David, Trump again insisted that Mexico will.
“Yes, in some form, Mexico will pay for the wall,” he said.
Trump’s public position isn’t new — during a rally in Arizona last August, Trump said that “[i]f we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.” The next month, Trump terminated the Obama-era protections that protected Dreamers — young undocumented people who were brought to the country through no fault of their own — from deportation.
While construction of a border wall was one of Trump’s signature campaign promises, border agents have long maintained that there are better ways to secure the border than building a physical barrier.
Trump is reportedly willing to imperil national security to fulfill his campaign promise. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that to get a wall, Trump is willing to slash funding “for border surveillance, radar technology, patrol boats and customs agents in its upcoming spending plan to curb illegal immigration — all proven security measures that officials and experts have said are more effective than building a wall along the Mexican border.”
Trump is currently asking Congress for $18 billion from American taxpayers to build a wall.