Sputnik: It’s been reported that the Pentagon redirected $1.5 billion in funds in order to help pay for the construction of 80 miles of wall at the US-Mexico border. How will this new investment impact current border wall construction? Could the recently announced redirection of Pentagon funds affect US defence capabilities?
Matthew Tragesser: The additional wall funding from the Pentagon makes a positive impact as the border faces unprecedented levels of illegal aliens and drugs. As it stands today, fencing only covers about a third of the border. With that being said, the nation’s border crisis must take priority and with nearly a trillion dollars devoted to the Department of Defence (DoD), this funding will have minimal impact on other areas of the budget. As Defence Secretary Pat Shanahan stated last week, “The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness.”
Matthew Tragesser: It is difficult to fully fund the border wall without the help of Congress. While Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, the cheap labor/pro-business wing of the party makes it challenging for the president to secure wall funding. A significant number of Democrats have also stymied border wall funding and will continue to obstruct most immigration enforcement plans. Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders have all said they are not in support of the border wall. Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke even suggested that the border wall in El Paso, Texas ought to be torn down.
Sputnik: How is this news connected with acting Defence Secretary Shanahan’s decision to keep US troops at the US-Mexican border? Does this mean that ICE and Border Patrol are no longer the main actors in the border crisis?
Matthew Tragesser: ICE and Border Patrol remain central figures in addressing the border crisis. Both ICE and the Border Patrol have the legal authority to apprehend illegal aliens, while US troops do not. US troops must abide by a federal statute called Posse Comitatus, which prohibits them from acting as law enforcement officials. American troops at the US-Mexico border mainly serve in a support role, providing surveillance, contributing logistical support, and erecting barriers. Without question, though, the combined efforts of ICE, Border Patrol, and US troops are invaluable.
Matthew Tragesser: Most experts estimate that $15-25 billion is needed to complete the construction of the border wall. While some additional US departments may contribute to the funding effort, Congress remains the most important actor in securing the rest of the wall funding. Congress has had several opportunities to fully fund the border wall, but due to open border and cheap labour advocates, large segments of the president’s proposed wall remain unbuilt to this day.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.