The Trump administration lacks the funds to pay for a wall along the US-Mexico border. According to an official document obtained by Reuters, the US government has only identified $20 million that could be used to fulfill the president’s biggest campaign promise. The latest official estimates place the cost of building this wall at over $20 billion.
A month after Trump took office, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has only identified $5 million from a previous project that came in under budget, and a further $15 million from a project that has been held up, according to the document to which Reuters has had access.
The combined amount available falls short even of the Republican president’s early estimates, which had the wall costing $8 billion to build.
We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border
US President Donald Trump
Trump had also claimed that Mexico would be paying for the wall. Later he reviewed this statement, and said that the US would pay for it first, and Mexico would reimburse US taxpayers at a later date.
The White House has been gradually lowering its demands, and its latest claim was that the wall would be built using existing DHS funds.
“We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border,” said Trump during his first address to Congress on Tuesday evening.
The sentence is not new, but the obstacle is. The lack of funds could pose the biggest challenge to the business tycoon who made the fight against illegal immigration the cornerstone of his campaign.
The lack of existing funds at the DHS means that Trump will need to convince Congress to include additional funding for the border wall in the 2018 federal budget. According to the latest DHS estimates, building the wall could cost $21.6 billion, and several Republican lawmakers have already said they will not support such an expense unless it is offset by public spending cuts.
This would force Trump to choose between raising the deficit – which Republicans have opposed to date – raising taxes to fund a project that Mexico was supposed to pay for, or slashing funds for public programs that Trump pledged he would not touch. Doing so could provide new arguments against him not just to Democrats, but to a significant portion of US society.
English version by Susana Urra.