House Republicans introduced legislation this week that would allow the federal government to use money and property seized from Mexican drug cartels to pay for border security, which could potentially break the gridlock in Washington over funding a wall.
Following President Donald Trump’s Oval Office address on Tuesday night, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin announced his plans to reintroduce the Build Up Illegal Line Defenses With Assets Lawfully Lifted (BUILD WALL) Act.
According to a news release from the Republican, “This legislation would direct money and assets seized from Mexican drug cartels to be used to increase border security between the U.S./Mexican border.
“In addition to building a physical wall, the funding may also be used to construct other types of barriers or to implement technology-supported solutions where appropriate,” the release said.
Sensenbrenner argued his legislation offers a way out of the stalemate over funding the construction of a border barrier.
“This commonsense legislation will provide the necessary funding to completely secure our southern border and cut off the flow of gang members and drugs into our country,” he said. “Best of all, this can be done with minimal cost to the American taxpayer.”
The congressman continued: “This bill would break through the stalemate of funding for border security, thereby providing a path to reopen the government. Congress should consider this legislation immediately so we can return to other important legislative business.”
Sensenbrenner’s bill is being co-sponsored by GOP Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Phil Roe of Tennessee, Rob Bishop of Utan, Bob Gibbs of Ohio and Jody Hice of Georgia.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has pushed similar legislation in the Senate.
We can build the wall and make El Chapo pay for it…
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 7, 2019
Before leaving for a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, Trump said he was prepared to declare a state of emergency if no deal could be reached on border funding.
However, he added he does not want to do so and offered maybe “something else comes up” that would break the current impasse.
Through his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump pledged that Mexico would pay for the wall, and more recently he has suggested the renegotiated NAFTA trade deal, called USMCA, will be the means through which that happens.
During his Tuesday night Oval Office address, the president further contended, “The border wall would very quickly pay for itself. The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year.”
Trump argued there is a security crisis created by the nation’s unsecured border.
“In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings,” he said. “Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.”
Trump also pointed to illegal drugs, saying “vast quantities” of meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl are coming in from Mexico.
.@POTUS at an roundtable with Border Patrol with seized guns and drugs before him. Seated on the right of the President is Reggie Singh, brother of fallen Police Officer Ronil Singh, killed by an illegal immigrant pic.twitter.com/JelpSTTi3H
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) January 10, 2019
“Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border,” the president said. “More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.”
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were a total of 521,000 apprehensions at the southwest border in the 2018 fiscal year.
The number of apprehensions surged in the first two months of fiscal 2019 to approximately 60,700 in October and 62,500 in November. Those figures represent an over 10,000 person per month increase compared to fiscal 2018.