Preparedness & Recovery

Trump may cut Coast Guard, FEMA, Airport Security Budgets to Pay for Mexico Wall

The latest proposal from the Trump administration is to slash the budgets for disaster relief, airport and rail security, and more programs.

by Geoff Herbert, Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. / March 8, 2017
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(TNS) - How much will President Donald Trump's wall along the U.S.-Mexico border cost? And who will pay for it?

According to multiple reports, the border wall will cost billions of dollars and may mean cuts in funding for the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously estimated the wall would cost up to $15 billion, while an internal Department of Homeland Security estimate obtained by CNN said $21.6 billion.

Trump promised to make Mexico pay for the wall during his presidential campaign, but Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has repeatedly said his country will not pay for it. When ABC News' David Muir asked in January if American taxpayers will pay for the wall at first, Trump said Mexico would pay the U.S. back "100 percent."

A week later, Pena Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump. The White House then proposed a 20 percent tax on imports from the key U.S. ally; the proposal was met with swift criticism as the two countries conduct some $1.6 billion a day in cross-border trade.

The latest proposal from the Trump administration is to slash the budgets for disaster relief, airport and rail security, and more programs.

Internal documents reviewed by Politico found the Office of Management and Budget is seeking a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard's $9.1 billion budget, and 11 percent cuts to both the TSA and FEMA. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all three of them, would somehow grow 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion.

The Washington Post reports the OMB budget would put $2.9 billion towards building the border wall, $1.9 billion for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fund "immigration detention beds,"and $285 million to hire more Border Patrol agents.

It's unclear how the additional $12 to 19 billion cost of the border wall would be covered.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R.-Calif.), who supported Trump's White House bid and oversees the House Transportation subcommittee on the Coast Guard and maritime transportation, told the Post that cutting Coast Guard funds would hurt Trump's fight against illegal immigration and drugs coming from South America.

"OMB has always treated the Coast Guard like a little piggy bank that they can go after whenever they need money for anything else," Hunter said. "If the president is serious about getting after the cartels and getting after drug networks, this makes no sense."

Retired Adm. James Loy, a former Coast Guard commandant who served as deputy homeland security secretary and TSA administrator under President George W. Bush, told Politico that the proposals are "ignorant of what constitutes national security."

Spokespersons for the White House and OMB said it's "premature" to comment on the proposals. A broad outline of the budget is expected to be published later this month.

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