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Trump Threatens Government Shutdown to Secure Border Wall Funding

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Sylvia Longmire IHSBy Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security

President Donald Trump visited the southwest border on August 22, and met with Border Patrol agents in the Yuma sector of Arizona. He then held a rally in Phoenix that evening, where he reiterated his vow to build a border wall and continue an aggressive deportation campaign against illegal immigrants. In spite of a government shutdown looming on the horizon, Trump said, “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.” His speech also hinted that he may pardon controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was charged with contempt of court after he and his deputies were accused of ignoring an injunction demanding they stop profiling and detaining Hispanic drivers.

‘Mexico Cannot Pay For That Wall’

Trump has run into many obstacles in his drive to secure funding for a border fence expansion. During his presidential campaign, he told voters he would get Mexico to pay for the wall’s construction. Even though it was clear to most that this would never happen, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto told Trump in a phone call, “I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient.  But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.” Congress is also unlikely to provide the necessary funding. According to The Hill, The House recently approved a spending bill that includes $1.6 billion towards building the wall, but it has stalled in the Senate. Senate Republicans apparently want to avoid the very same spending showdown with the Democrats that Trump is willing to cause.

It has become increasingly unclear what Trump really wants with regards to a border wall. In July 2017, Trump said to reporters on Air Force One, “You don’t need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers… You have some areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing. So you don’t need that.” This statement is significant in light of his visit to Yuma sector. According to the Washington Examiner, the Yuma sector saw an 82 percent drop in apprehensions since 2007, when 57 miles of wall and fencing infrastructure was installed in the region. A Customs and Border Protection official based in the Yuma sector said what was once the least secure area of the border is now the most secure spot, because of the wall.

Big Bend – Manpower For The Border Wall

That being said, apprehensions in the Yuma sector also doubled from FY 2015 to FY 2016. The Big Bend sector (formerly Marfa) is one of those stretches where natural barriers prevent people from crossing the border illegally. For the past 44 years, Big Bend has seen the lowest number of immigrant apprehensions by Border Patrol agents. However, Trump’s executive order regarding wall construction included the 118 miles of river shared by the Texas national park and Mexico. Lee Smith, a career agent and local Border Patrol union president, told NPR, “For us, we’re not pressing the actual brick-and-mortar-style wall here. That’s not our objective. We’ve told everyone from the [Trump] transition team to the current administration, for us here locally in Big Bend, what we need is [more] manpower.”

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Because of these inconsistencies in Trump’s speeches and his difficulties in obtaining funding for expanded border fencing, it is becoming increasingly clear that any talk by Trump of border wall construction is rhetoric designed to placate his supporters rather than a strong signal such an initiative will actually move forward.

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