Better than building Trump’s border wall: Five ideas for investing in America’s families


November 20, 2019

What if we diverted $4.74 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention and deportation operations, and another $5 billion for President Trump’s proposed wall at the southern U.S. border, and used this money to invest in families instead?

A new two-page research paper published by MomsRising and the National Priorities Project proposes doing just that, and offers up five examples of how this combined $9.74 billion could be invested. The groups write:

“Despite the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection CBP) separated thousands of children from their parents at the border, and we still do not know the exact number of these separations because these agencies did not bother to document which children belong to which parents at the time of separation, the Senate has introduced a bill that would increase funding for ICE and CBP to over $26 billion. Congress must hold these agencies accountable for those family separations and for the continuing cruel mass incarceration of immigrant children and families by cutting funding for the most inhumane elements of the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, starting with cutting $4.74 billion for ICE detention and removal operations, and $5 billion for a wall at the southern border with Mexico.”

Instead, the groups propose five ways the $9.74 billion could be spent:

  1. Boost federal funding to public K-12 schools by 60 percent. “An additional $9.74 billion…could make a huge difference to our schools and children’s lives. U.S. schools are old, and many are desperately in need of updates, like expansion to accommodate growing enrollment, and energy retrofits to control spiking energy costs,” the groups note. “A 60 percent funding boost wouldn’t be enough to solve the problems, but in a world where citizens launch GoFundMe campaigns to raise $75,000 for school heaters, it would be a great start.”
  2. Provide health care through Medicaid for 2.74 million people. The number of uninsured Americans has plummeted since passage of the Affordable Care Act, with 17 million more non-elderly Americans insured than before. But 27.4 million Americans remained uninsured as of 2017. $9.74 billion could pay for roughly 10 percent of this population to receive health care coverage through Medicaid.
  3. Quadruple federal funding for substance abuse and mental health. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 68,500 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2018. Yet the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for addressing substance abuse, received just $4.3 billion in funding in 2018. Adding $9.74 billion to that would almost quadruple the agency’s budget.
  4. Multiply Puerto Rico’s disaster relief and recovery funds by a factor of seven. More than two years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory has received only $14 billion of the $42.7 billion appropriated by Congress. A disaster aid package approved by Congress in June included only $1.4 billion for Puerto Rico – disbursing $9.74 billion would be almost seven times that amount and would help hasten the island’s recovery.
  5. Multiply federal spending on energy efficiency and renewable energy by a factor of six. The groups note that the federal budget for research and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy is a paltry $2 billion. “Adding $9.74 billion to bring the total to almost $12 billion is just a fraction of the massive investment we really need to achieve a zero-carbon grid fast enough to help slow climate change, but it would do much more to speed up the transition than our government is doing now,” the groups write. “And it would be better than building a wall.”

You can download the two-pager here.