U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, joined her Democratic colleagues to introduce a bill that would rescind President Donald Trump's executive order to construct a border wall and ramp up deportations and detentions of undocumented immigrants.
The executive order, signed January 25, 2017, mandates the immediate planning and construction of a wall along the entirety of the U.S. southern border with Mexico, expands the controversial 287(g) a program that allows state and local authorities to carry out federal immigration statutes, requires Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire 5,000 additional agents, and calls for increased removals and detentions of undocumented immigrants.
"Attacking our immigrant community members, our neighbors, our friends and our colleagues will never lead us to be the country we aspire to be," Senator Harris said. "President Trump's executive orders create a climate of fear that harms our economy and public safety, and divert essential taxpayer resources for an unnecessary multi-billion dollar wall."
U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL.), Al Franken (D-MN.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are original co-sponsors of the legislation. The bill can be found here.
The proposed wall would be incredibly costly, with American taxpayers set to bear the cost. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that it will cost $21 billion to build the wall, not including the costs to acquire land. The President maintains that Mexico will pay for the wall, a claim that Mexico--and most Republicans--deny. The Trump Administration is considering unacceptable cuts to important DHS agencies in Fiscal Year 2018, including the Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on top of an increase in DHS's overall budget in order start to pay for expenses associated with this ill-advised executive order. These cuts will harm aviation security and drug interdiction efforts, likely making Americans less secure.
There is no evidence that more wall is needed. There are already some 650 miles of fencing at the border where DHS has determined it is most effective. The non-partisan GAO has found that DHS has no metrics showing how much additional security benefit a border wall would add. The terrain at the border cannot be secured with a one-size-fits-all solution. Areas that have not been walled off include remote mountaintops and difficult to access riverbeds; privately owned land; and areas monitored by aerostats, motion sensors, and other proven force multiplier technologies; and deserts. President Trump's executive order does little besides deliver on a campaign promise to build a wall--despite the proven effectiveness of less costly solutions to enhance our border security.
The aggressive construction timeline has high potential for waste. DHS has faced challenges staying on schedule and budget when making major acquisitions in the past, and acquisitions remain on the Department's high-risk list. Despite these challenges, the President's Executive Order requires the Secretary to construct a wall before he has even had the chance to assess what is needed to secure our border. This backwards timeline is a surefire way to waste taxpayer funds on an unnecessary wall, when other solutions would be more effective.
The executive order ramps up immigration enforcement programs that have proven to be costly and ineffective. The executive order also calls for the construction of new detention facilities at our southern border, which will likely house nonviolent undocumented immigrants at great expense to the taxpayer. Additionally, the order would grow the force of CBP agents by nearly 25%, necessitating a cut in hiring and training standards and leading the agency to hire candidates susceptible to corruption by drug cartels.