President Trump recently backed off his demand for $5 billion in funding for his border wall, likely averting a government shutdown around Christmas. However, the political debate over funding for border wall will merely reemerge in the New Year. Besides new court decisions regarding DACA, there is little to break this deadlock. Some of the suggestions below offer additional avenues on which to negotiate.
One of President Trump’s persistent claims is that the wall will secure the border and he recently implied that Border Patrol agents are substitutes for such a barrier. In that case, I have a suggestion for Congressional Democrats who will be negotiating with the President over the wall in the next several years: If you must fund the wall in exchange for the DREAM Act or DACA, have Border Patrol pay for it.
This idea is simple in concept – just fire Border Patrol agents and use their saved salaries to fund the construction of the border wall. As of the middle of 2018, the 19,338 Border Patrol agents had an average annual salary of $61,064. Altogether, they were paid about $1.18 billion in 2018. The savings from firing all of them in one year wouldn’t come close to funding the $25 billion or so to build the entire border wall and would only go a small portion of the way toward President Trump’s more modest $5 billion request, but it’s a start.
Of course, the government should not fire all the Border Patrol agents. Some are necessary to patrol the border even if Congress liberalizes the immigration system. But this is Washington, DC, and politics being what it is, we all must compromise. If Congress instead fired half of all Border Patrol agents and instituted a policy of no new net hiring, that would free up $590.4 million per year for the construction of a border wall. In 8 years and 5 months, about $5 billion in savings could be diverted to the wall.