Trump Wants $18B for Border Wall as DACA Negotiations Stumble

As lawmakers try to reach a deal to restore DACA protections, the Trump administration says it wants $18 billion for border barriers.

By Gabrielle Levy, Political Reporter |Jan. 5, 2018, at 12:01 p.m.

Trump Wants $18B for Border Wall as DACA Negotiations Stumble

An existing border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona. President Donald Trump is requesting more money to expand parts of the wall along the southwest border. (DImitros Manis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Trump administration wants roughly $18 billion over a decade for hundreds of miles of barriers on the southwest border as part of a broader immigration deal and as lawmakers struggle to reach a consensus two weeks ahead of a major spending deadline.

DACA Debate Looms Over Government Funding Talks

According to a document prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and described to The Wall Street Journal, the administration is proposing what amounts to an expansion of existing physical barrier from 654 miles to almost 1,000 miles, or about half the length of the southern border with Mexico. The document was drawn up following a request by senators seeking details about the administration's border security demands, which are tied into ongoing legislative discussions.

The outline reportedly calls for a total of roughly $33 billion for border security measures that also include technological enhancements and personnel.

The wall has loomed over negotiations both on government funding ahead of a Jan. 19 deadline and efforts to reach an agreement on a permanent replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that protects certain young immigrants brought into the country illegally from deportation. The Trump administration announced in September it was canceling the program, but effectively gave Congress six months to replace it with legislation.

A wall along the border with Mexico – paid for by Mexico – was one of Trump's main presidential campaign promises. More recently, he has insisted that any deal to replace DACA be paired with border security enhancements, including a wall.

"We must BUILD THE WALL, stop illegal immigration, end chain migration & cancel the visa lottery," Trump tweeted Thursday after Republican lawmakers met to discuss immigration at the White House. "The current system is unsafe & unfair to the great people of our country - time for change!"

Trump is planning to convene a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss immigration at the White House next week. But his calls for a wall divide many on Capitol Hill, with Democrats and some Republicans opposing such an initiative as unnecessary or a poor use of government funds.

DACA negotiations also hit an apparent speed bump this week, with some GOP senators apparently quitting a bipartisan working group.

"Over the course of the last several weeks, we have negotiated in good faith with Senate Democrats on a DACA agreement," Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in joint statement Thursday. "Unfortunately, our discussions on border security and enforcement with Democrats are much further apart, and that is key to getting a bipartisan deal on DACA. Until that happens, we cannot accomplish the solutions our country needs and many families deserve."

Members of the working group, led by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., met in Durbin's office Wednesday, and seemed to be nearing an agreement on provisions that would restore protections to so-called Dreamers and provide a path to permanent legalization. Lankford and Thillis reportedly weren't present.

But it's not clear the group will be able to reach a compromise on border security, or if such an agreement would get the approval of Republicans in the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan has said he won't bring up a bill that can't get the support of at least half his caucus.

Nor have Democratic leaders said whether they will insist on an immigration deal by Jan. 19 or force a government shutdown in order to get one. They're facing a pressure campaign from immigration and liberal activists who cried betrayal after lawmakers failed to restore DACA protections before the end of last year, and are wary of angering a motivated base.

Meanwhile, public recriminations over a possible shutdown have already begun.

"Why do Senate Ds slow walk disaster relief (for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the West) plus defense needs in order to force a DACA deal?" Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, tweeted Friday. "We are negotiating in good faith on DACA and will beat the deadline if Ds do so as well; no need to abandon USG's other responsibilities."