With no end in sight to the government shutdown, President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly laying the groundwork to declare a national emergency to access funds for his much-debated wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sources familiar with the preparations told The Washington Post and CNN that Trump is eyeing billions of unspent dollars from the Defense Department’s disaster recovery and military construction coffers to build the wall ― a project for which Democrats have refused to approve funding and that Trump is unwilling to bend on.
Though the president has said for the last week that he’s more than willing to take such a course of action, these are the first reports of him actually moving forward with the plan.
Some of the money Trump wants to use may come from funds slated for disaster relief in Puerto Rico, Texas, California, Florida and other regions devastated by fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. According to the official who spoke with CNN, the White House has asked the Pentagon to provide it with a list of funds that have been earmarked for relief projects but have not yet been spent ― a sum totaling around $13 billion.
Use of that unspent money for a national emergency is allowed by Title 10 of the U.S. Code.
According to one of the sources who spoke with the Post, Trump has put pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to give him a timeline for signing on construction contracts and would like to begin work on the wall within the next 45 days.
Though Trump has characterized undocumented immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border as a major security threat to the U.S., the data do not back up his claims.
Democratic leaders have instead called for better infrastructure at ports of entry, better technology for scanning cars for drugs, and additional personnel working at the border to facilitate both trade and immigration.
“Make no mistake: Democrats and the president both want stronger border security,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a rebuttal to Trump’s Tuesday address on the border situation. “However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.”