In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) introduced this bill to replace the Presidential Election Campaign Fund checkbox on the IRS 1040 with a Border Wall Trust Fund checkbox to allow taxpayers to designate their tax money toward building a southern border wall:
“Taxpayer dollars should never be used to advance political campaigns. But, keeping Americans safe must be our #1 priority. Americans spoke loud and clear in the 2016 election that we want a wall to secure our southern border. Congress has clearly been unable to get the job done. My bill will give every American the opportunity to directly help President Trump build the wall."
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union for Border Patrol agents, sees the wall as a sensible solution to border security:
“Whether we call it a fence or call it a wall, it acts as the exact same thing — a physical barrier that makes it more difficult to enter the United States illegally. I don't understand the whole fight over this.”
In June 2019, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused House Democrats of playing politics with border funding. He accused Democrats of opposing funding for the border wall and other security solely because such requests came from the White House and Trump administration:
“The Democratic House of Representatives has been more interested in denying this White House whatever it asks for, however necessary. It might be simply because it was this White House that was asking for it.”
Opponents of this bill argue that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to pay for the southern border wall. In a February 2019 press release, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) — sponsor of a bill, the No Taxpayer Money for the Wall Act (H.R.968), to prevent taxpayer money being used for the southern border wall — said:
“My constituents don’t want a wasteful wall. They want effective border security, to feel safe in their homes, and to know their hard-earned tax dollars are used appropriately, especially during tight fiscal times. President Trump’s wall does nothing to further this mission, nor secure the border. Instead, it’s a monumental waste of money that would be better used to advance meaningful measures to feed, educate, and provide health care services to millions of Americans.”
Democrats have been largely unified in their opposition to Trump’s border wall, which they view as xenophobic and a waste of taxpayer money. Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA called the border wall an issue on which her caucus “must all speak out” in a letter to her colleagues in early 2018.
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?”
This legislation has 37 Republican cosponsors. Passage is unlikely in the Democratic-controlled House.
Of Note: The Presidential Election Campaign Fund, established after President Nixon’s Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, allows taxpayers to mark a special section of their 1040 forms to donate money to a publicly paid-for presidential campaign fund. If taxpayers check the applicable box, $3 from their tax filing is donated to the Presidential Election Campaign (for married taxpayers filing jointly, the amount is $6).
When the program began in 1976, 27.5% of taxpayers marked the box to donate to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Participation peaked in 1980, with 28.8% of taxpayers participating in the program. However, in 2013, only 6% of taxpayers participated in the program.
When Rep. Green introduced this bill in July 2019, he cited the challenges President Donald Trump was having in obtaining funds for his proposed southern border wall. Previous attempts to secure funding for the border wall include a failed executive order (January 2017); the longest government shutdown in U.S. history in December 2018-January 2019, precipitated by the failure of Congress to approve a budget that included $5.6 billion for the wall; the declaration of a national emergency in February 2019; and the diversion of funding for other military projects for the wall.
At present, the border wall is projected to cost $25 billion or more.
Summary by Lorelei Yang