At last year’s rallies, Alabama residents made it clear that they support Trump’s plans to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. But now, the Alabama senate race has shown just how divided the candidates are on President Trump’s signature issue.
Specifically, whether the wall should be built at all and who should pay for it.
All told, 18 candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to be considered in this August’s primary election. Of the 10 candidates running for Republican seats, most want the wall to be built; just two have expressed their opposition. But the fact that these candidates want the wall built is about the only thing on which they can agree. Estimates for structural costs vary greatly, with building costs of $14 billion to $70 billion being cited. Of course, Trump has promised that the costs will fall to the Mexicans, who have refused to cover the financial burden. Others say the U.S. taxpayers will be responsible. And as to whether it will be a true beautiful wall or just a fancy fence is anyone’s guess.
Candidates have proposed other payment ideas, too. Current Senator Luther Strange has proposed that part of the wall should be paid for by sanctuary cities who have refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement on immigration issues. Two other leading candidates in the race — U.S. Representative Mo Brooks and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore — are in agreement. Brooks is also quick to add that the wall would reportedly be more cost-effective than the current costs Americans are burdened with as a result of illegal immigration.
Still, most candidates feel that other security measures are needed in addition to any type of structure. Some have suggested toll systems to act as a financial deterrent. Others have said an increase in border agents and surveillance technologies will be necessary. Still others have noted that additional cybersecurity and even drones might do the trick.
Dr. James Beretta, a Pelham, AL physician who’s in the running for the state Senate, not only supports implementing a toll system but also believes the federal government should create a “financial wall” for undocumented immigrants. Beretta has suggested that one federal tax break proposal for businesses should force organizations to pay their employees only through electronic direct deposit. Electronic bill payment is now commonly used in banking, which allows depositors to send money to vendors instantly, and many U.S. employees do prefer direct deposit. However, this would make it nearly impossible for many undocumented immigrants to find work, as companies would be penalized for paying employees with cash. For immigrants who cannot open bank accounts, this would severely limit their ability to work and pay taxes.
The Alabama Senate race may be filled with interesting ideas for the wall, but that can be said for the current administration, too. In a surprisingly sustainable move, Trump himself has proposed the idea of affixing the border wall with solar panels to make money back on the structure. The U.S. could sell the energy produced to help make back the money used to fund the wall. The average solar panel needed to power a home is around 600 square feet, but Trump’s newest plan would involve five different solar panel tiers along the top of the proposed 50-foot wall.
Architect Vijay Duggal suggested the idea earlier this year on Border-Wall.us, but in his proposal, he also included wind turbines. The reasoning for this is that the panels wouldn’t be able to produce enough energy alone to pay for the wall. Duggal calculated that the combination of both energy sources could produce $1.2 billion per year in revenue.
But support for the border wall is largely limited to those in the Republican party. The Democrats have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of building a wall, citing polls that show most Americans don’t support it or don’t believe Trump will follow through. According to a Pew Research Center poll taken in February, 62% of Americans oppose the idea. Wholly 94% of liberal Democrats and 84% of moderate Democrats don’t want the wall to be built, calling it a total waste of money.
Although we may not know how or whether the wall will be built as yet, one thing’s for sure: Alabama residents will need to go out and vote in the primary election on August 15 if they want their beliefs to be represented in the general election on December 12.