After flirting with the prospect of vetoing an omnibus spending bill because it fell short of funding for his proposed border wall, President Donald Trump on Friday eventually gave the go-ahead to the $1.3 trillion measure just hours before a possible government shutdown.
Though far short of the billions initially sought for the president’s “big, beautiful” wall on the country’s southern border, Trump's signature on the bill means that some work will commence soon on one of his best-known campaign promises.
The money allotted for a barrier on the state’s southern border, more than $1 billion total, includes funding for construction of a barrier in Hidalgo and Starr counties, according to the McAllen Monitor.
During a press briefing Friday afternoon, Trump characterized the funding as a down payment on the project.
“We have a lot money coming to the border, and it will be coming over a period of time,” he said. “We funded the initial down payment of $1.6 billion. We’re going to be starting work – literally – on Monday on not only some new wall ... but also fixing existing walls.”
The bill will also fund levee walls in the Rio Grande Valley to the tune of $445 million, according to Washington-based environmental group Earthjustice, and $196 million for bollard fencing in the same area. More than $400 million will go toward repairing or replacing the existing border fence that was constructed after the 2006 Secure Fence Act. Several miles of fence already exists along the Texas-Mexico border, including in Hidalgo, Cameron, Hudspeth and El Paso counties.
But the omnibus bill signed Friday also includes language that blocks construction of a barrier in the Rio Grande Valley’s Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, which U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, called a hard-fought victory.
“Keeping the border wall out of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was a top priority and the barring of border wall funds at the refuge will ensure that Texans and Texas wildlife can enjoy this habitat for years to come,” he said in a statement.
No DACA solution
The funding bill also leaves out a permanent solution for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants whose future status in this country is uncertain after Trump eliminated an Obama-era program that granted them protection from deportation. The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program affords certain undocumented immigrants a two-year work permit and protection from deportation.
In his news conference Friday, Trump didn’t mention that his administration nixed the program, which included 1240,000 Texans, last year. He instead called out Democrats for what he said was their failure to move forward on the issue.
“DACA recipients have been treated extremely badly by the Democrats. We wanted to include DACA, we wanted to have them in this bill,” he said. “The Democrats would not do it.”
Two separate federal courts have ruled that the federal government must continue accepting renewals, though new applications can’t be submitted. But U.S. House Democrats said Dreamers shouldn’t have to rely on two temporary court orders to feel confident they won't be deported once their current status expires.
“By not including a permanent fix for Dreamers in the omnibus, the President and Republicans have prolonged this self-inflicted crisis and have left Dreamers in limbo and at the mercy of a temporary court injunction,” U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-New Mexico, said in a statement. “We must find a permanent solution to protect hundreds of thousands of young people who contribute billions to our nation’s economy from the threat of deportation.”
During the press conference, the president made clear he wasn’t happy with Congress forcing his hand, and asked lawmakers to pass legislation that gives him line-item veto power in the future.
“I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it,” he said.