Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner has introduced a bill that would use funds seized from alleged Mexican drug cartels to fund the construction of a border wall with Mexico.
Sensenbrenner's bill urges the Justice Department to look at how it can increase forfeitures from drug cartels, according to the Washington Times.
He proposed that half of the funds seized should be used to build the wall or buy other technology to assist in patrolling the border.
"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," a statement by Sensenbrenner read, the Times reported. "The BUILD WALL Act is a creative solution to a complex problem and I encourage my colleagues to support it."
Sensenbrenner further suggested that his solution would avoid straining U.S.-Mexican relations, which suffered after President Donald Trump stated he would make Mexico pay for the wall.
"This is a way to fulfill the president's desire to have Mexico pay for the wall," he told the Washington Examiner. "Having the money seized from Mexican drug cartels would mean that the bad Mexicans would end up paying for the wall, and the bad Mexicans have been terrorizing the good Mexicans with crime and kidnappings and murders within Mexico itself."
Trump has appeared to back away from his demand that Mexico pay, saying instead that taxpayers may have to foot the bill before being reimbursed at a later date.
The Justice Department seized around $1.7 billion nationally in 2016. But this figure includes money from all sources, not just drug cartels.
The civil asset forfeiture process is controversial for some, because law enforcement agencies can seize funds they suspect of having been generated by drug trafficking operations. It is not necessary for law enforcement to wait until an individual has been put on trial.
Reuters stated in a report that the wall could cost as much as $21 billion to construct.
Sensenbrenner's proposal may help Republicans get around threats by Democrats to try to block spending bills in Congress which include taxpayers' money for building the wall.
"We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump's administration," a group of Democrat senators wrote in a letter to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to The Hill.
They were referring to the need for Congress to adopt an appropriations bill by April 28 to ensure continued funding for the government.