- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Money seized from Mexican drug cartels would be used to build the border wall, under a new bill introduced Wednesday by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the House Republican who oversees immigration.

The bill calls for the Justice Department to study ways to increase forfeitures from Mexican drug cartels, and says half of the money the government does seize from them should be used to pay for a wall, other physical barriers or technology that would deter illegal crossings.

Mr. Sensenbrenner said it seemed like an easy solution that wouldn’t put more strain on the U.S.-Mexico relationship, which has become tense in the wake of President Trump’s vow to make Mexico pony up funds to build his wall.

“If we do nothing, we put the people of this nation at risk, as well as allow illegal immigrants to take away jobs, opportunities, and social funding from U.S. citizens — all at the expense of the American taxpayer,” he said in a statement. “The BUILD WALL Act is a creative solution to a complex problem and I encourage my colleagues to support it.”

Cartels take in billions of dollars a year in profits, though how much of that can be seized is unclear.

Overall, the Justice Department took in about $1.7 billion in seized cash nationally in 2016, but that was from all sources. And the cash is already earmarked for law enforcement uses.

The Trump administration has struggled to come up with a solution for paying for the wall. The president said during the campaign that Mexico would foot the bill, but now says American taxpayers will pay first, then be reimbursed later.

A Reuters report last week suggested the cost could be as high as $21 billion for a wall.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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