Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked Thursday whether Mexico will pay for President Trump’s planned wall along the United States’ southern border — a promise Trump repeated countless times during his 2016 presidential campaign.
“Uh, no,” McConnell replied during a Politico Playbook breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning.
While McConnell said he is in favor of “border security,” the Kentucky Republican also suggested that in some places, a border wall “is probably not the best way to secure the border.” Trump has said that due to natural barriers, his wall project would not need to be continuous.
Lawmakers in border states have said that a physical wall is not enough to secure the border — and that a combination of fencing, technology and patrol officers are needed in many areas.
Trump has repeatedly vowed that Mexico would pay for his proposed wall, despite public refusals by Mexican officials. In January, Trump said that the wall would initially be funded by U.S. taxpayers “for the sake of speed” and that the country would be reimbursed by Mexico at a later date.
Last week during his address to a joint session of Congress, Trump said that construction on the border wall would begin soon.
“We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders,” Trump said. “For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.”
The “great wall” is a key, if symbolic, part of Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration — a plan which once called for the deportation of all estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. He has since muddled his position, saying he would treat Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (or DACA) recipients with “great heart” and focus on criminals.
“We are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens,” he said during his address to Congress. “Bad ones are going out as I speak, and as I promised throughout the campaign. To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that “illegal border crossings” — defined as crossings made by people who were detained or rejected at the border — fell by nearly 40 percent from January to February compared to the same period last year.
At the breakfast, McConnell praised Kelly’s leadership.
“I think Gen. Kelly knows what he’s doing,” McConnell said. “And my suspicion is we will take his advice.”
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