Trump asks $4.1B for bor­der wall

Some for con­struc­tion, some for at­tor­neys to con­demn pri­vate land.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Maria Re­cio Spe­cial to the Amer­i­can-States­man

The Trump WASHINGTON — ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing $4.1 bil­lion over the next two years to be­gin con­struc­tion of a wall on the Mex­i­can bor­der, as well as money to hire 20 more Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers to “ob­tain the land” for the wall.

Much of the land along the Rio Grande in Texas is pri­vately owned and the gov­ern­ment would need to un­der­take con­dem­na­tion pro­ceed­ings to ac­quire it — a some­times lengthy le­gal process.

Mean­while, the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment is close to is­su­ing sev­eral bid re­quests for a 30-foot-high wall, although it mod­i­fied an ear­lier notification that it should be made of con­crete. It is now seek­ing bids on con­crete and other ma­te­ri­als. The bids for the pro­to­type de­sign are ex­pected to be due in May.

The moves in­di­cate Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is mov­ing quickly on his sig­na­ture cam­paign prom­ise to seal the bor­der, even as he

‘It’s just a tremen­dous waste of re­sources where there’s so many com­pet­ing needs in this coun­try.’ U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke D-El Paso

is ask­ing Amer­i­can tax­pay- ers to pick up the tab, not the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment. Es­ti­mates put the project at $15 bil­lion to $25 bil­lion.

In Trump’s bud­get re­quest re­leased Thurs­day, he is seek- ing $3 bil­lion more this fis- cal year for bor­der se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, which in­cludes $1.5 bil­lion for the wall. Next fis- cal year, which starts Oct. 1, he is re­quest­ing $2.6 bil­lion for the project.

“The re­quest would fund ef­forts to plan, de­sign, and

con­struct a phys­i­cal wall along the south­ern bor­der, and make other crit­i­cal in­vest­ments in tac­ti­cal bor­der in­fra­struc­ture and tech­nol­ogy,” Trump said.

“I think the fund­ing pro­vides for a cou­ple of pi­lot cases ... dif­fer­ent kinds of bar­ri­ers in dif­fer­ent kinds of places,” Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney told re­porters Wed­nes­day. “We try and find the most cost-ef­fi­cient, the safest and also the most ef­fec­tive bor­der pro­tec­tions.”

The bud­get doesn’t spec­ify where the wall will be built, but the Amer­i­can-States­man first re­ported last month that ini­tial con­struc­tion would be near El Paso, Tuc­son, Ariz., and El Cen­tro, Calif.,

ac­cord­ing to a Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment doc­u­ment. A sep­a­rate agency no­tice ear­lier this month said that long-term “more ex­ten­sive con­struc­tion could in­clude the Rio Grande Val­ley in the south­east of Texas, the area in and around El Paso, the desert along the Ari­zona bor­der, and the area south of San Diego, Calif.”

The Texas fron­tier ac­counts for more than half of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. Texas law­mak­ers of both par­ties have been re­sis­tant to the idea of a con­tigu­ous wall — although Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly has said there would be “lev­els” of bor­der se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing cam­eras, high­tech de­vices like drones and more Bor­der Pa­trol agents.

But U.S. Rep. Henry Cuel­lar, D-Laredo, sharply crit­i­cized the bud­get’s boost to bor­der se­cu­rity at the ex­pense of other pro­grams. “The pres­i­dent’s pro­posed bud­get would be a dis­as­ter for Texas, and for the coun­try,” he said. “He wants to take money from pro­grams that Tex­ans ac­tu­ally need, and use it to hire 20 new lawyers. Those lawyers’ en­tire jobs will be to take pri­vate prop­erty away from Amer­i­can landown­ers on the bor­der, so the pres­i­dent can build his ar­bi­trary bor­der wall.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the San An­to­nio Ex­press-News

and the Texas Ob­server, the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment has al­ready be­gun the process of no­ti­fy­ing landown­ers along the Rio Grande that their prop­erty will be con­fis­cated and that they will be paid for it, in some cases at seem­ingly be­low-mar­ket rates. One fam­ily said it was be­ing of­fered $2,900 for 1.2 acres near Los Ebanos, in western Hi­dalgo County, ac­cord­ing to the Ex­pressNews.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, said he had learned from fed­eral of­fi­cials that the first step would be to build the pro­to­type wall for 16 miles near San Diego. “It’s just a tremen­dous waste of re­sources where there’s so many com­pet­ing needs in this coun­try,” O’Rourke said.

Also op­posed to a con­tigu­ous wall: U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, whose district stretches from near El Paso to San An­to­nio and in­cludes 800 miles of bor­der.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has taken law­mak­ers to tour the bor­der,

said in a pub­lished re­port Wed­nes­day, “I sup­port bor­der se­cu­rity, but I think we need a lit­tle more def­i­ni­tion of what the plan is. I would pro­pose we come up with a plan and then we can come up with when and how to fund it.”

But U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who chairs the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee’s sub­com­mit­tee on Home­land Se­cu­rity, wel­comed the Trump bud- get re­quest, which in­cludes a 10 per­cent spike in de­fense spend­ing.

“I’m grate­ful to fi­nally have a pres­i­dent com­mit- ted to re­build­ing our mil­i­tary, de­fend­ing our bor­ders and se­cur­ing our great na­tion,”

Carter said in a state­ment. And U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said that, “as Chair­man of the Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, I will work with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and my col­leagues to make sure our coun­tert­er­ror­ism and cy­ber­se­cu­rity pro­grams, first re­spon­ders, and those pro­tect­ing our land, sea, and avi­a­tion sec­tors have the funds they need to de­fend our home­land and our cit­i­zens. Of note, the ad­di­tional funds for bor­der se­cu­rity and in­te­rior en­force­ment show this pres­i­dent truly un­der­stands these press­ing chal­lenges.”

KELLY WEST / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

A Bor­der Pa­trol ve­hi­cle guards a sec­tion of bor­der fence last month in Runn. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bud­get pro­posal Thurs­day calls for $1.5 bil­lion this fis­cal year to build a new bor­der wall, and $2.6 bil­lion in the up­com­ing fis­cal year’s fed­eral bud­get.

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