Freedom Caucus members urge Trump to build the wall using executive authority

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

Bipartisan bill to avert shutdown revealed

Freedom Caucus members in the House of Representative wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to use his executive authority to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. These congressmen oppose a deal hashed out by congressional negotiators this week which would provide $1.375 billion for "fencing" along the border, far less than the $5.7 billion requested by Mr. Trump.

"The conference committee deal is bad. It will not secure the border and will allow criminally violent aliens to be released into our country. And, in fact, there may be additional problems with the proposed 'deal,'" said the letter, signed by Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Andy Biggs. The members were likely referring to a part of the deal which decreases the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds for illegal immigrants from 49,060 to 40,520.

The letter urged Mr. Trump to build the wall under the authority provided by Sections 284 and 2808 in Title X of the U.S. Code. Section 284 allows the Pentagon to "provide support for the counter-drug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime," including by the "construction of roads and fences." Mr. Trump has argued that there is a "humanitarian crisis" at the border, caused in part by the drugs "pouring" into the U.S., although most of those trafficked substances are smuggled through legal ports of entry.

Section 2808 would allow the president to "undertake military construction projects" if he called a national emergency. Mr. Trump has publicly mulled declaring a national emergency to build the wall without congressional approval.

Mr. Trump is likely to sign the deal reached by Congress, which is expected to pass both chambers on Thursday. Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office alongside the Colombian president Wednesday, the president said he has options most people don't understand to build the wall.

The president insisted the deal has $23 billion for border security, calling Democrats "stingy" on the issue. Mr. Trump warned that the White House would be "looking for landmines" in the bill before signing the legislation. He also told reporters on Tuesday, "I can't say I'm happy. I can't say I'm thrilled."

Rebecca Kaplan contributed reporting

First published on February 14, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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