CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Some lawmakers in drug-ravaged West Virginia want to pitch in millions of dollars for President Donald Trump’s wall-building effort along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The GOP-led House of Delegates issued a statement Monday that a bill planned by three delegates would divert $10 million from West Virginia’s current $186 million budget surplus for wall construction.
Trump is seeking $5.7 billion overall to fund construction of a wall along about 235 miles (375 kilometers) of the border, and the federal government has been partially shut down as Trump and Democratic lawmakers are at an impasse over his request. The suggested offer from West Virginia would pay a tiny fraction of the cost.
Last week a Republican lawmaker in Montana proposed giving more than $8 million for the wall, while South Dakota senators voted to urge construction of a steel barrier.
The sponsors in West Virginia are Delegates Carl “Robbie” Martin, R-Upshur; Patrick Martin, R-Lewis; and Caleb Hanna, R-Webster. Robbie and Patrick Martin are brothers.
West Virginia has by far the highest rate of U.S. drug overdose deaths. The three lawmakers said on a conference call Tuesday the $10 million would help stem the flow of drugs from Mexico into West Virginia.
“Our constituents are crying out, saying that they need help with this drug problem,” Patrick Martin said. “West Virginians want this wall. I believe that they want border security.”
Drug trafficking is concentrated at land ports of entry, not remote stretches of the border, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The most common trafficking technique by transnational criminal organizations is to hide drugs in passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers as they drive into the U.S. though entry ports, where they are stopped and subject to inspection. They also employ buses, cargo trains and tunnels, the report says, citing other smuggling methods that also would not be choked off by a border wall.
The DEA found that most of the heroin sold in the U.S. is being trafficked from Mexico, but the agency has said China is a main source of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that have been flooding the U.S. market. China has pushed back against the characterization.
The DEA’s report also noted a drop in the number of U.S. methamphetamine labs is being filled by Mexican and Latin American drug cartels.
Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on the chances of the proposal’s passage.
West Virginia Democratic Party chairwoman Belinda Biafore called the proposal a “political stunt” and “sickening” because the money should be used for other pressing needs in the state.
Trump carried West Virginia by 42 percentage points in the 2016 election, and 63 percent of state voters who cast midterm ballots approve of his job as president.