By Thomas Kennedy
Donald Trump spent a good portion of the 2016 election cycle mindlessly chanting “build that wall” alongside his supporters, amid promises that he would somehow make Mexico pay for the estimated $67 billion that a wall along the southern border would cost.
In a phone call which took place on January 27th, Trump attempted to pressure Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto into not voicing any opposition to his public plan of having Mexico pay for the wall, saying: “If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that," and stating that any opposition should not be made public. “You cannot say that to the press," Trump said.
The Trump administration is now singing a different tune, stating that the U.S. government will pay for the initial cost of the wall just to get the project off the ground, but that Mexico will eventually reimburse it for the full cost. An impossible prospect.
The border wall funding is just another piece in Trump’s larger immigration crackdown, as his administration seeks to weaponize the federal budget as a tool to be used against immigrant communities in an effort to deport and terrorize hardworking families.
The cruel budget proposed by the Trump administration seeks to allocate draconian anti-immigrant expenditures such as $1.5 billion to detain and deport undocumented immigrants, $300 million to bring in 1,500 new immigration agents, $1.2 billion to expand the nations detention centers to their biggest capacity in history and about $75 million to hire immigration judges and support staff.
Overall the Trump administration is requesting about $4.6 billion to fund its agenda of family separation and mass criminalization at a time when the country is seeing low record numbers of border crossings.
It is up to our community to put a stop to this senseless spending and demand that Congress protect our loved ones. This week in Miami, after a powerful convening hosted by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), over 70 youth activists from all over the country rallied outside the office of GOP Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart to both protest his vote in favor of the border wall and demand that he vote NO on Trump’s anti-immigrant budget.
Video by Diario Las Americas.
Other activists worried that they or their families would soon be at risk of deportation if their Temporary Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were revoked, and hoped that Representative Diaz-Balart would support them, as he has been supportive of pro-immigrant legislation in the past such as the DREAM Act.
It’s now up to Congress to do the responsible thing and reject this cruel and senseless budget. Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on the criminalization and separation of families that are contributing to the economic engine of this country, lawmakers should instead allocate those funds to much needed programs that help the public, with a focus on healthcare and education.
Thomas Kennedy is a communications fellow with the Center for Community Change.