In-Depth: Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) introduced this bill to allow the Treasury Secretary to accept public donations to fund the construction of a southern border wall, as promised by President Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. By allowing Americans to personally fund the construction of a southern border wall, Rep. Grothman wants to give American people the option to actively take part in making their country safer:
“For too long, illegal drugs, guns and criminals have poured over our unsecure Southern border. Concerned Wisconsinites frequently ask me if there is a way they can personally contribute to the funding of a border wall. As it stands now, there isn’t. That’s why I am proud to answer the call of Wisconsinites in the Sixth District and introduce this bill that will fulfill their request to strengthen national security.”
Democrats have been largely unified in their opposition to Trump’s border wall, which they view as xenophobic and a waste of taxpayer money. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in a letter to her colleagues in early 2018, called the border wall an issue on which her caucus “must all speak out.” However, in December 2018, a group of border-state House Democrats accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) of betraying them on the border wall issue due to comments Sen. Schumer made about backing more funding for the border.
In December 2018, the ACLU, Amnesty International USA, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Sierra Club, and a range of other advocacy organizations signed a letter urging lawmakers in both chambers to reject any new funding for the border wall and other Trump security priorities.
Environmental scientists — a group that typically doesn’t make political statements — have spoken out against the border wall proposal over environmental concerns. Robert Peters, lead author of a paper in Bioscience documenting the ecological harms of fence and barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border and the further damage that’d be incurred by the Trump administration’s proposed continuous wall that’s co-signed by 2,700 scientists from 47 countries, notes in his paper that “[f]ences and walls erected along international boundaries in the name of national security have unintended but significant consequences for biodiversity.”
According to Jenni Miller, senior scientist at Defenders of Wildlife, barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border threaten 1,500 species of plants and animals, including 62 endangered or vulnerable species. Miller questions the wisdom of trading the environment for national security:
“Debates about the border wall typically focus on immigration, economics and national security, but the harm to Americans’ natural heritage is an outcome rarely discussed. Do we really want to trade our natural heritage for national security?”
GovTrack Insider notes that, in addition to resistance to the border wall itself, there are also some concerns about the politics of crowdfunding:
“Some worry that the ability to donate privately to such a federal project would primarily serve as a way for individuals or corporations to buy political influence, especially in this case with the White House or Republican members of Congress. Federal government projects are nearly always funded entirely publicly, for the reason that contributions from the public en masse not only provide more of an 'all in' approach, but also help prevent nepotism or favoritism in the process.”
Nearly identical legislation was introduced in the previous Congress. The Buy a Brick, Build the Wall Act, sponsored by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), had the support of two Republican cosponsors, and died without receiving a committee vote. The Border Wall Trust Fund Act, sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), had the support of 11 Republican cosponsors and also died without receiving a committee vote.
Of Note: Private donations have funded other public works projects, including the Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, FDR Memorial, World War II Memorial, George Mason Memorial, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
A Florida veteran, Brian Kolfage, has started a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the southern border wall. To date, the campaign has raised almost $19 million, out of a $1 billion goal.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Rpsycho)