Politics

Senate Democrats Vow to Block Border Wall Funds

Schumer ‘prepared to fight this all the way’

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer wants to block President Donald Trump’s budget proposals on immigration and the border wall project. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday said Democrats will block President Donald Trump’s budget proposals on expanding federal immigration forces and starting the border wall project.

“Senate Democrats are prepared to fight this all the way,” the New York Democrat said at an event organized by the National Council of La Raza, the country’s largest Hispanic civil rights advocacy group. “Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on a pointless wall, we should be investing in creating jobs and fixing our infrastructure.”

The Trump administration’s budget proposals ask for $4.5 billion in fiscal 2018 and another $3 billion in the fiscal 2017 supplemental request to pay for a border wall and hire more immigration and border patrol agents. The Department of Homeland Security has already begun seeking bids for the first phase of the wall along the southwest border with Mexico, estimated at about $600 million.

The government is operating under a stopgap measure that runs out on April 28. Lawmakers have been eager to complete all fiscal 2017 spending talks and get moving on fiscal 2018.

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, an appropriator, said he does not expect the fiscal 2017 wrap-up bill will include funding for the Trump administration's border security supplemental request or its proposed $30 billion defense supplemental.

Asked separately if Senate Democrats are prepared to shut down the government to oppose the border wall project, Schumer said, “We hope our Republican colleagues work with us and not put it in,” referring to the funds being sought for building the wall.

At Tuesday’s event, the National Council of La Raza invited two families that had lost their fathers because Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents deported them. Family members said the men did not have any criminal record and had been present in the United States for more than a decade. Janet Murguia, president of the council, said as many as 6 million American children under the age of 18 have at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant.

Sen. Robert Menendez, who also spoke at the event, said Democrats would stand united in opposing the wall.

“I believe our caucus will do everything possible to make sure U.S. taxpayer money will not go toward building a wall,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “I don’t believe we need a wall.” But since Trump during his campaign speeches repeatedly said he would get Mexico to pay for the wall, “he should keep his promise and make someone else pay for the wall,” the senator said.

Menendez said the only way to address the issue of undocumented immigrants in the United States is through comprehensive legislation and not by building a wall or by hiring more immigration agents. The longtime lawmaker, a member of the “Gang of Eight” that pushed a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate in 2013, said the Congressional Budget Office at the time had judged that the proposal would create jobs and boost the country’s economy.

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