- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Tuesday he doesn’t know of any “redemption” money or other secret source of money from Mexico to pay for President Trump’s border wall.

Mr. Trump in recent weeks has insisted that Mexicans are funding his border wall — a promise he made during the 2016 campaign. At one rally he cited “redemption” money coming from Mexican illegal immigrants, and this past weekend he told conservatives flatly that “they’re paying for it,” though he didn’t elaborate.

Mr. Wolf, testifying to the House Homeland Security Committee, said he didn’t know of any such sources.

“I’m sorry, a redemption fund?” Mr. Wolf said when queried by Chairman Bennie G. Thompson.

The secretary continued: “I know what we are appropriated, for and obviously funding that DOD is providing for wall construction as well. That’s what I’m familiar with.”

Mr. Trump is making good on part of his border promise, quickly piling up miles of new barriers at the border.

But his pledge that Mexico will pay for that construction has not come to pass, as the Mexican government has flatly refused.

Mr. Trump has attempted to posit several different ways Mexicans are still paying. He said one was his tariffs, slapped on some Mexican goods.

Then in New Hampshire last month he told supporters Mexico was paying through “redemption from illegal aliens that are coming.”

“The redemption money is paying for the wall,” he said.

Mr. Trump likely meant remittances, which is the name given to money earned by foreigners working outside their home nations, but sent back home. Illegal immigrants remit tens of billions of dollars back home each year.

The White House has said it was considering action such as imposing a tax on those remittances, which could produce significant revenue. But it hasn’t done so yet.

On Saturday, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump again insisted Mexico has ponied up.

“They like to say, ‘All right, so he’s building the wall, but Mexico is not paying for it.’ Yes, they are, actually. You know what I mean, right? They are paying for it,” he said.

Mr. Trump didn’t elaborate other than to say, “Oh, they’re going to die when I put in this — what we’re going to do. But, no, they’re paying for it.”

Without Mexican payments, and with Congress balking at his requests for wall-building, Mr. Trump has had to be inventive in finding more cash.

His chief answer last year and again this year has been to declare border emergencies and siphon nearly $10 billion from Defense Department accounts over to wall building.

Mr. Wolf said that Pentagon money, along with what Congress does allocate to Homeland Security, is what he’s using to construct the wall.

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

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