By Benjamin Fearnow, Newsweek
President Donald Trump is set to ask Congress for $8.6 billion in taxpayer money for his border wall proposal.
Trump will request the additional $8.6 billion on Monday, making his latest budgetary demand more than six times what the U.S. Congress allocated for southern border projects during each of the past two fiscal years. Reuters reported an administration official saying Trump’s budget request grants him the ability to “say he fulfilled his commitment” and sets him up for his 2020 presidential reelection campaign.
Sources familiar with the president’s 2020 budget request told Reuters it includes $5 billion from the Department of Homeland Security budget and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction budget. The budget plan also sets aside $3.6 million in military construction funding as payback for any projects delayed by creation of the wall.
Trump’s budget proposal looks to hire more nearly 3,000 law enforcement personnel for the agencies involved in border security and construction and about 100 immigration judge teams. The president’s latest wall request factors in a 2017 U.S. Customs and Border Protection plan calling for the building or replacement of about 722 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. Federal officials have said only about 111 miles have been built so far or are currently under construction.
Trump has long touted his border wall project as a staple of his presidency. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump rallies frequently featured his supporters screaming “Build the wall” as Trump repeatedly claimed “Mexico will pay for the wall!”
Mexican and U.S. officials outside of Trump are in agreement the country’s southern neighbor has no intention of paying the billions in wall costs, particularly after this latest request for U.S. taxpayer dollars. However, Trump tweaked his payment claims during this year’s government shutdown and said Mexico will pay “indirectly” because of a “great new trade deal” that benefits the U.S.
Congress only approved $1.375 billion for border fencing projects for the 2019 fiscal year in comparison to the $5.7 billion demanded by Trump.
“It gives the president the ability to say he has fulfilled his commitment to gain operational control of the southwest border,” an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters of the budget request.
“We have provided the course of action, the strategy and the request to finish the job. It’s a question of, will Congress allow us to finish the job,” a second administration official told the news wire Sunday.