It is a fairly well-known fact that the Republican party is in favor of protection, and therefore a Mexican border wall. In fact, 74 percent of Republicans support building a wall on the Mexican border. Promises to build this wall were a large part of President Donald Trump’s campaign, and his supporters were front and center hoping that he stuck to this plan. More than just an immigration issue, the wall became Trump’s signature promise and rallying cry during his campaign. The wall goes hand in hand with Republican views that border security should be heightened and that anyone crossing the border should be given a thorough background check. Republicans favor a far stricter immigration policy than Democrats, and want to take much stricter preventative measures against illegal immigration than have been taken in the past. Of course, this isn’t to say that there aren’t differences within the party on this issue.
One of the largest contributing factors to differences in Republican views on a Mexican border wall is location. Studies have found that Republicans who live closer to the border are less likely to support the building of a wall than their counterparts who live further away. An in-depth analysis of the data revealed that 35 percent of Republicans that lived within 350 miles of the 63 percent of Republicans in this area supported in. This contrasts starkly with the statistics of those who live over 350 miles away from the border; of this group, 76 percent are in favor of the wall and 21 percent oppose it. This difference seems to become even more pronounced when you look at those who live 200 miles or less from the border. However, the sample sizes within this range are not large enough to be included in the study.
During his campaign, President Donald Trump asserted that the wall would come at no cost to American taxpayers. He insisted that Mexico would need to pay for the wall. After skepticism was raised at getting Mexico to pay for the wall upfront, Trump insisted that, at the very least, America would be reimbursed for the wall after the fact. During his campaign, when the media highlighted the controversy surrounding the wall and its cost, he tweeted, ““The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!”
However, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto stated after his meeting with Trump during his campaign that “At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.” However, this seems to have done little to deter those Republicans that do support the wall. The mindset of this was voiced by Luke Messer, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, when he stated, “It would be a proposal that would cost billions of dollars to get done, but if it’s an appropriate priority for our country, it’s worth spending that kind of money.” This viewpoint seems to be common. Steven King of Iowa stated, “If we build that wall, and Donald Trump hasn’t figured out how to get Mexico to pay, I’m not going to be the guy who says, ‘Let’s wait until we get this in pesos.'” Others feel that current infrastructure budgets should be allocated to cover this cost. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa stated, “We’ve already appropriated money for walls. We’ve got walls right now.”
The actual cost seems to be a matter of contention. While Trump initially estimated the number at $8 billion, recent congressional legislation estimated the number at closer to $10 billion, and construction experts have stated that it could cost twice that much. Many Republican leaders have stated that they would spend as much as $15 billion to build the wall, but it appears it could cost more than that depending on who you ask. Some Republicans are hesitant about where the country will come up with the money, even if they do support the wall. Senator Steve Daines, an Appropriations Committee member, stated, “I think realistically we’re going to have to find a way to fund this.” He then continued to state that the Trump administration had not yet reached out to his committee to discuss the issue.
One proposal that’s been made to cover the cost of the wall is to make Mexico pay for it in a more inadvertent way – through taxes. Sean Spicer told reporters in January that taxing imports from Mexico at 20 percent could raise $10 billion a year, which would “easily pay for the wall.”
The Secure Fence Act
A 2006 law required 700 miles of “physical barrier” be built along the border. However, this was never completed. The law, known as the Secure Fence Act, is now being examined as a way to implement the border wall that today’s Republicans want to build. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell headed the discussion, which proposed financing the Secure Fence Act to complete their goal. Under this act, Congress is ready to dedicate between $12 billion and $15 billion to the wall and let Trump deal with Mexico afterwards. McConnell stated “We intend to address the wall issue ourselves and the president can deal with his relations with other countries on that issue and other issues.”
Border Walls in the Middle East
One major proof of concept that Republicans supporting a Mexican border wall cite is the success of similar walls in the Middle East. For example, walls along the Israeli-Palestinian border reportedly cut down illegal immigration between the countries. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who is also the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, stated that he was impressed with a system of fences he had inspected along the Israeli border with Palestinian territories. Johnson stated “I’m always looking for best practices. It’s been incredibly effective. They had thousands of illegal immigrants; it’s down to the teens.”
Republicans Opposing the Wall
Many Republicans that oppose the wall don’t necessarily oppose stronger border control, they just disagree with using the wall as the means to that end. For example, Republican Representative Will Hurd stated, “Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border. Each section of the border faces unique geographical, cultural and technological challenges that would be best addressed with a flexible, sector-by-sector approach that empowers agents on the ground with the resources they need.”
Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson favors a slightly different approach, suggesting a steel fence barrier, similar to the fencing that separates Israel from the Sinai.
- In Republicans’ Views of a Border Wall, Proximity to Mexico Matters – Pew Research Center
- Republicans Embrace Building of Mexican Border Wall, Despite Costs – Chicago Tribune
- Trump’s Meeting with Mexico President Ends in Dispute Over Border Wall Payment Talk – Chicago Tribune
- GOP Leaders Embrace Trump’s Border Wall But Split on Details – Bloomberg Politics
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- Democratic View on Immigration