During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer declared, “We’re not going to help [Trump] build his wall.” Schumer was one of the Democrats to support construction of a wall in 2006.
Democrats are already grumbling about Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, though Barack Obama and other leaders in their party voted not so long ago for George W. Bush’s proposal to build a major wall on the border with Mexico.
Bush signed the proposal into law in 2006, after it was passed by huge bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate. The law ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct about 700 miles of fencing along the southern border, and authorized the addition of lights and cameras and sensors to enhance security. The law explicitly required the wall to be constructed of “at least two layers of reinforced fencing.”
Two-thirds of the Republican-led House approved the bill, including 64 Democrats, and 80 of 100 senators approved the bill in the Senate. Then Sens. Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were among the 26 Democrats who approved the bill. Supporters also included Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is set to take over leadership of the Senate for Democrats in 2016.
Other Democrats in the Senate who voted for the wall in 2006 are Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio — then in the House), Tom Carper (Del.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
There are also a number of Democrat representatives still in the House who voted for the bill: Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Corrine Brown (Fla.), Michael Capuano (Mass.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Daniel Lipinski (Ill.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), and Adam Smith (Wash.).
Former Democrat Rep. Barney Frank and now-disgraced former Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner also voted for the bill.
Bush signed the bill into law Oct. 26, 2006. “This bill will help protect the American people,” he said. “This bill will make our borders more secure.”
But nearly a decade later, DHS has built only 35.6 miles of the double-layered fencing. That’s because a Democrat-controlled Congress later amended the law to allow DHS officials to build whatever sort of barrier they deemed appropriate.
So far DHS has built about 613 miles of new pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers to deter illegal border crossers and drug smugglers trying to enter the US.
According to the timeline in the bill, the barrier should have been completed by the end of 2008, yet here we are 8 years later and we have less than 700 miles of fencing.
Congress approved $1.2 billion in a separate homeland security spending bill to fund the fence, although critics said this was $4.8 billion less than what’s likely needed to get it built.
Just like the situation with our immigration laws, all Trump has to do is enforce existing law. The funding has also been approved and payment for it should come out of DHS’s budget.
He doesn’t need to introduce new legislation, so Schumer’s threat means nothing.