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Republican hopefuls push for border wall, split over how to pay for it

The remaining Republican presidential field is coalescing around building a wall along the southern border, but have very different ideas about how to cover the expense.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has claimed he would finish what former President Donald Trump started, emphasizing that the 77-year-old had all the legal mechanisms he needed to go ahead with the project.

DeSantis, 45, has vowed to “impose fees on the remittances” Mexican workers send back home to finance construction, and argued Trump could have done the same instead of saying Mexico would pay for it and then failing to get the necessary funds.

Trump himself has backtracked from his notorious 2016 campaign vow.

“When you hear these lunatics back there,” the former president told an Iowa audience last month, indicating the assembled media, “say, ‘Trump didn’t get anything from Mexico,’ well, you know, there was no legal mechanism. I said they’re going to help fund this wall, but there was no legal mechanism. How do you go to a country, you say, ‘By the way I’m building a wall, hand us a lot of money.’”

“You could have imposed fees on the remittances to foreign countries, Mexico included,” DeSantis responded on NewsNation, knocking Trump for going back on his word.

The Florida governor has some of the most aggressive border policies out of anyone in the GOP field, calling for an end of birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, and vowing to “wage war” on drug cartels in Mexico in his immigration plan entitled “Stop the Invasion.”

DeSantis also signed the nation’s strongest anti-illegal immigration legislation, making E-Verify mandatory for Florida employers with more than 25 employees and suspending the licenses of any company who knowingly employs illegal aliens.

Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is rising in the polls to challenge DeSantis, has also said she would be committed to finishing the wall, but has not publicly announced her specific steps.

As South Carolina governor, Haley signed one of the nation’s toughest immigration laws — the South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act — requiring police to check the status of anyone they stop or arrest for any reason and suspect may be in the country illegally.

“Nikki Haley supports a comprehensive plan to crack down on illegal immigration and secure our southern border. That includes finishing the wall, defunding sanctuary cities, enacting a national E-Verify program, restarting Remain-in-Mexico, reinstating Title 42, stopping catch-and-release, starting catch-and-deport, and hiring 25,000 more Border Patrol and ICE agents. Nikki will get the job done,” said Ken Farnaso, Haley’s spokesperson.

The former South Carolina governor, whose parents are immigrants from India, has used softer language on the topic over the years compared to DeSantis and Trump and has advocated for the importance of legal migration.

“Immigrants are the fabric of America. It’s what makes us great. We need as many immigrants as we can. We need the skills, we need the talent, we need the culture. We need all of that,” Haley said in 2019 on conservative personality Ben Shapiro’s podcast.

The former South Carolina governor, whose parents are immigrants from India, has used softer language on the topic over the years compared to DeSantis and Trump and has advocated for the importance of legal migration.

In 2015, Haley criticized merely putting up a border wall, arguing that additional reinforcements like drones and in-person surveillance would be needed.

“Don’t say you’re just going to build a wall, because a wall’s not going to do it,” she said at the time.

Since then, the former UN ambassador has stepped up her barrier rhetoric, saying that the US needs to “finish what we started.”

Haley has also suggested Republicans and Democrats work in a bipartisan fashion to come up with an immigration reform plan.

“We shouldn’t wait for another 9/11 to realize that Republicans and Democrats have to get in the room and figure out immigration reform and start working for the American people instead of the other way around,” Haley told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” in May.

The issue was given additional urgency Tuesday, when US Customs and Border Protection revealed that it had stopped nearly 241,000 migrants attempting to cross the Mexico border in October — a new recorded high for the month.


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