WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans sparred Thursday over the potential economic security benefits of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with Democrats reminding that Trump promised that Mexico would pay for the wall and Republicans arguing that undocumented immigrants get government benefits and often commit crimes.
Members of the House Oversight Committee’s national security subcommittee also debated how much the wall would cost – Republicans estimate $15 billion while a Senate Democratic report estimated as much as $70 billion.
Trump originally wanted funding immediately – in the current spending bill for 2017, but backed off Tuesday and said it could be included in the spending bill for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., presented a compilation of television clips of Trump promising that Mexico would pay for the border wall, followed by recent clips of Republican representatives justifying the recent decision to use federal dollars to get the project underway.
Trump’s proposed border wall is “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border,” said DeSaulnier.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., responded that Senate Democrats had released a flawed report stating that the wall would cost $70 billion, instead of the Republicans’ $15 billion estimate.
Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told the committee that undocumented immigrants receive federal benefits at a cost to the U.S. treasury.
A report by his center, which believes in limiting immigration, stated that, “if a border wall stopped between 160,000 and 200,000 illegal crossers … the fiscal savings would equal the $12 to $15 billion cost of the wall.”
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said he “will not advocate for a 2,000-mile wall, but [he]will advocate for a wall in strategic places.”
In a heated exchange Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., interrogated panelist Seth Stodder, Homeland Security assistant secretary for border and immigration policy under President Barack Obama, asking, “Mr. Stodder, what is the age of consent in Mexico?”
When Stodder couldn’t answer, Grothman revealed that the age of consent for sexual acts in Mexico is 12. He said that undocumented male immigrants from Mexico don’t know U.S. laws, potentially putting girls under the U.S. consent age at risk of crime and assault.
“The data is not there. I don’t think that’s what the data says,” Stodder responded.
Maria Espinoza, director of The Remembrance Project, which helps people whose loved ones have been victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants, said she doesn’t want the issue to be politicized but that she “stands behind President Trump” and the border wall.
Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed that illegal immigration is a problem. While they disagreed on the effectiveness of a border wall, some Democrats pushed for a bipartisan effort to tackle immigration reform.
“Maybe this is an opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to do what we had recently been able to do on a bipartisan level when it comes to the adjudication process and to criminality — which is to deal with evidenced-based research,” DeSaulnier said.