Senator Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) announced Thursday a proposal to fully fund a border wall along the southwestern border, offsetting the cost by reducing illegal immigrants' access to federal welfare.
"We need to build the wall along the southern border—President Trump has called for the wall and I agree," Inhofe said in a press release. "As a former builder and developer in south Texas I know border security is national security and we need to do more to deter the growing numbers of unauthorized immigrants coming across our borders."
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The WALL Act would appropriate the $25 billion that a wall along the Mexican border is generally estimated to cost. Inhofe's bill is not the first congressional attempt at funding. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) introduced his own bill last month, and President Donald Trump has multiple times considered pushing for a shutdown of the federal government if Congress does not provide funding.
But Inhofe's bill goes a step further, explicitly identifying ways of cutting spending to pay for the $25 billion expense. It would increase the minimum fine imposed on illegal border crossers. But it would also substantially overhaul noncitizens' access to federal welfare, reducing consumption to levels that Inhofe's office contend would offset the cost of the wall.
Specifically, the WALL Act would require a work-authorized social security number in order to claim refundable tax credits (e.g., the EITC or Child Tax Credit)—under the status quo, only a child needs a valid SSN, not his or her parent, to collect the CTC. The bill would also require applicants for federal welfare programs—TANF, SNAP, etc.—to actually verify their citizenship using E-Verify, rather than simply "declare" that they are a citizen.
These changes would reduce welfare payouts to unauthorized residents and to noncitizens more broadly. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute has noted that noncitizen households receive more in welfare benefit dollars than their citizen counterparts, a disparity that the WALL Act would help close. Inhofe's office did not provide precise estimates for how many dollars they expect these limitations on welfare usage to recover.
"I've outlined specific ways to fund the border wall by assessing penalties on illegal immigration and closing loopholes that allow unauthorized immigrants to receive federal benefits," Inhofe said. "We're going to build the wall through new sources of funds by protecting the integrity of hardworking American citizens' tax dollars."