With President Trump’s promise to build a wall in Mexico still on the minds of many Americans, there may now be multiple solutions to the construction of border protection.
Congress passed a spending bill last month that clarifies the limitations of construction efforts along the wall. According to The Hill, these include “repairing the existing fence; building vehicle barriers (that don’t block pedestrians); constructing small portions of pedestrian fencing; and spending on unmanned aerial drones (which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already deemed completely ineffective at border patrol).”
However, there may be other options to reach the wall-building goal.
First, a law passed by Congress in 1996, Section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), allows at least 700 miles along the land border with Mexico to be constructed with fencing by the DHS.
“Federal law authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct barriers along the U.S. borders to deter illegal crossings,” says Acting Section Research Manager for Congressional Research Service, Michael John Garcia, in a report. “DHS is also required to construct reinforced fencing along at least 700 miles of the land border with Mexico (a border that stretches 1,933 miles). Congress has not provided a deadline for DHS to meet this 700-mile requirement, and as of the date of this report, fencing would need to be deployed along nearly 50 additional miles to satisfy the 700-mile requirement. Nor has Congress provided guidelines regarding the specific characteristics of fencing or other physical barriers (e.g., their height or material composition) deployed along the border, beyond specifying that required fencing must be reinforced.”
Next, Trump suggested in a recent tweet that a portion of the $700 billion allocated for use by the Department of Defense be set aside for the wall-building initiative.
This repositioning of funds would ultimately have to be approved by Congress, because the Antideficiency Act forbids “the use of federal funds for anything other than what Congress specifically appropriates.”
Nevertheless, the president does incur flexibility for a small amount of funding for new military construction deemed “in the interest of national security.” According to Sec. 8074, the funds do not need approval by Congress, but instead requires a “prior notification” to the defense committee before they are used.
Finally, President Trump has the option to implement legislation to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. He could reason the renegotiation by claiming a cross-border trade agreement with Mexico is critical to maintaining a secure border. Trump could also require Mexico to pay for the border wall in this circumstance.