Trump Says Mexico Would Pay U.S. Back for Construction of Border Wall

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Donald Trump may want to block immigrants' remittances to Mexico unless Mexico pays for a wall along the U.S.'s southern border, but the plan would never succeed, critics say. Jim Young/Reuters

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Friday Mexico ultimately will pay for his planned border wall, a day after news emerged that his transition team had asked fellow Republicans in Congress to vote to approve the funding.

Trump told the New York Times he would most likely seek repayment through renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which groups the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for Trump, said on Friday the incoming administration is seeking to fund the wall through the appropriations process and that Trump said in October Mexico's payment would be a reimbursement.

"The idea that we're going through the appropriations process and figuring out how to pay for it shouldn't be news,” he told a briefing, confirming earlier reports on the funding.

A 'Pay for the Wall' memo Trump's team issued in early 2016 proposed pressuring Mexico by cutting off remittances from undocumented Mexicans in the United States. It proposed amending the Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, to include wire transfers as accounts that could be frozen.

"It's an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion (in remittances) continues to flow into their country year after year," the memo said. "We have the leverage, so Mexico will back down," it said.

CNN and other media organizations reported on Friday Trump's transition team had signaled to congressional Republicans that he preferred to fund the wall through the appropriations process as soon as April.

In response, Trump tweeted that the media was not reporting that Mexico would repay money spent to build the wall.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's office declined to comment on Trump's comments on Friday. In August, Pena Nieto told Trump Mexico will not pay for a border wall.

Representative Martha McSally, the Republican chair of the border and maritime security subcommittee, told Reuters a 2006 law known as the "Secure Fence Act" would give Trump the authority he needs to extend fencing or build a wall.

An internal report prepared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates initial costs for expanding border fencing would cost over $11.3 billion.

Building a wall, as Trump promised during his campaign, would be more costly.

Trump has signaled since being elected that he would be open to fencing rather than a wall in some areas.

If funding was tied to the appropriations process, Democrats could be forced to approve it to avoid a government shutdown.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters she feared what federal programs would have to be cut to fund the wall, given existing caps on domestic discretionary funding.

The Mexico peso briefly weakened by about 0.22 percent following Trump's tweet. The currency fell to record lows against the dollar this week as Trump intensified his criticism of businesses that make goods in Mexico rather than in the United States.