According to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration will seek to spend almost $18 billion to build about half of the long-promised wall between the United States and Mexico.
The only problem is that they will be asking Congress, and therefore the American taxpayer, for the money, instead of Mexico — as Donald Trump promised his supporters dozens of times over the presidential campaign.
The funding would unfold an expansion and replacement of 700 miles of wall or fencing over ten years. This, combined with the existing 654 miles of fencing between the United States and Mexico would result in 970 miles of the 2,000-mile border. The request occurred as the White House and Congress negotiate a solution to the problem Trump created when he decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
At nearly every single campaign rally, Trump would call from the podium, “We’re going to build a wall and who’s going to pay for it?” to be answered with an exultant roar from the crowd: “Mexico!”
Yet in a private phone call in January, shortly after being sworn in, Trump told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that Mexico paying for the wall is “the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important [thing we] talk about.”
Publicly, Trump has held fast to the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall “through reimbursement/other” — whatever that means:
With Mexico being one of the highest crime Nations in the world, we must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
But to some in Congress, the whole notion of Mexico paying for the wall was just a metaphor, not something that would actually happen.
“I think it’s another bit of campaign rhetoric,” Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) said in August. “It’s highly unusual, but I don’t think that anyone during the campaign seriously thought that Mexico would pay for that wall even though we all desperately believe the wall’s a metaphor for border security.”
Trump, from the outset of his campaign, used the specter of threats from Mexico to justify the need for the wall, and the injustice of bad trade deals to underline the justification for Mexico to pay for its construction. His description of the wall became more absurd last year. In July, Trump called for a solar-powered wall that should be see-through. “There is a very good chance we could do a solar wall,” he said, neglecting to mention that this would require an additional multi-billion-dollar power line in a very remote area of the country.
This is not the first time that the Trump administration asked Congress to help fund a border wall. Earlier last year, it requested, and the House approved, a bill that contained $1.6 billion in funding for a small portion of fencing and wall along small sections of the southern border.
Partially because the construction of the wall will require large seizures of private land, there is no solid estimate for how much it will actually cost.
Mexico has repeatedly refused to pay for any wall, but officials there offered to send aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year.