The wall's big week: Trump orders border barrier, as he and GOP float payment ideas

On Wednesday, Trump ordered the construction of a wall on the border, one of his central campaign promises. Meanwhile, GOP leaders said they plan to introduce legislation providing up to $15 billion to fund it, while other Republicans continue to protest the idea.

Julie Watson/ AP
People look out towards where border structure separates San Diego, right, from Tijuana, Mexico, left, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. President Donald Trump moved aggressively to tighten the nation's immigration controls Wednesday, signing executive actions to jumpstart construction of his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and cut federal grants for immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities."

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign with a promise: "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall."

In the past two days, that wall drew closer to reality. But Mexico doesn't sound any more likely to pay for it.

Mr. Trump echoed the campaign promise Wednesday with an executive order stating that it "is the policy of the executive branch to ... secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border."

Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans are making moves to supply the funds. On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, both at a GOP retreat in Philadelphia, said during a news conference that they plan to introduce legislation this year providing $12 billion to $15 billion for the wall's construction.

But not all GOP lawmakers agree. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said that he is "not inclined to support it." Stronger criticism came from Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, whose district shares an 800-mile border with Mexico.

"Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border," he said in a statement. "Big Bend National Park and many areas in my district are perfect examples of where a wall is unnecessary and would negatively impact the environment, private property rights, and economy."

Neither Representative Ryan nor Senator McConnell specified where the funds could come from, but Ryan assured reporters that, "if we’re going to be spending on things like infrastructure, we’re going to find the fiscal space to pay for that."

For his part, Trump continues to emphasize that "we will be, in a form, reimbursed by Mexico" for the construction of the wall, as he said in an interview Wednesday with ABC’s David Muir.

But Mexico, for one, doesn't seem to agree. Early Thursday, Trump tweeted that, if Mexico was unwilling to pay for the wall, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto should not attend a planned meeting with Trump next week. Mr. Peña Nieto, who has repeatedly stated that Mexico will not fund the wall, promptly cancelled.

Many of Mexico’s leaders are taking Trump’s statements with a grain of salt. "I think that, in general, diplomacy is not conducted via Twitter," the country’s finance secretary, José Antonio Meade, told Radio Formula, as reported by the Associated Press.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday that the Trump administration would seek to impose a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to fund the wall's construction – a proposal that would require Congressional approval. Later in the day, however, after some Republicans criticized the idea, Mr. Spicer sought to rescind his statement, recasting the 20 percent tariff as among several options currently being considered.

"Border security yes, tariffs no," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina wrote in a tweet. "Mexico is 3rd largest trading partner. Any tariff we can levy they can levy. Huge barrier to econ growth."

The ongoing disagreement between the US and Mexico has made many observers underscore the importance of binational cooperation that they say will be needed to properly address migration, drug violence, and other issues facing the two neighbors.

"To have good trade and relations between the two countries ... you have to have coordination and collaboration," Luis Ribera, the director of the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University in College Station, told The Christian Science Monitor earlier this week.

But there has been a "cooling off" of these ties since the election, he added. "For sure the wall is putting a chill on relations."

"The question isn't really 'Will cooperation continue? – much, if not most, of it can and will," Shannon O’Neil, the senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, told the Monitor last week, after drug kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman was extradited to the United States. "The question is will it be done well, or will the bitter words and hard feelings erode these deep ties."

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.