Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has a unique solution for Congress' current border wall pickle.
Instead of requiring that the United States pay for the border wall out of taxpayer funds, and instead of dogging Mexico to pay for a border wall they feel is unnecessary, perhaps the United States could use some of the billions confiscated from convicted drug lord "El Chapo" to build the wall.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was found guilty Tuesday on all ten federal criminal counts against him, CNN reports, stemming from his time at the helm of the notorious Mexican drug cartel, Sinaloa. Each federal count carries a minimum of ten years in prison, and the top count — engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise — carries with it a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
During their pursuit of "El Chapo," federal agents confiscated billions of dollars in cold hard cash, along with billions of dollars in more "solid" assets, including "gold-plated AK-47s and monogrammed, diamond-encrusted pistols." By the time El Chapo was captured in 2016, federal agents had amassed a cache of more than $14 billion in seized assets.
Prosecutors are seeking a forfeiture judgment against El Chapo which would allow the federal government to keep the money.
Now Ted Cruz says he believes the money can be put to good use by building a border wall, ostensibly making it much harder for drug kingpins like El Chapo to traffic marijuana, heroin, and cocaine across the United States southern border. To that end, on Tuesday he introduced the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order, or EL CHAPO Act.
"Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border," Cruz said in a statement.
He followed up with a tweet: "America’s justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts. U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder."
Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has proposed a nearly identical bill in the House.
"The DEA has estimated that the gross receipts of the Mexican drug trade are somewhere between $19-$29 billion a year,” Sensenbrenner told the Washington Examiner, explaining that the border security fund would not have to close after El Chapo's $14 billion was exhausted. “We don’t have to be 100 percent efficient to get the money we need to completely pay for the wall relatively quickly.”
Indeed, the $14 billion itself dwarfs what the White House is currently requesting for the border wall — a mere $5 billion. In a budget compromise inked Tuesday morning, Democrats and Republicans agreed to allocate only around $1.4 billion to border wall construction, far less than what the White House wanted, and less even than the $1.6 that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he was comfortable allocating back in late November.
The EL CHAPO Act may be a decent compromise for both Congress and the White House. It funds the wall on a consistent basis, well into the near future (the Sinaloa cartel is still very much in operation), and fits with one of the White House's arguments for the border wall itself, which claims that drug cartels would be forced to risk smuggling their goods through official border checkpoints — rather than take easier smuggling routes through open swaths of land — if there was a complete wall across the United States' full southern border.