As Capitol Hill struggles to come to a compromise on President Trump's demand for a border wall, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has an idea: Use Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán's money to pay for Trump's wall. In fact, Cruz went so far as to reintroduce his EL CHAPO Act in January. On Wednesday, when asked about the idea, Trump mused, "It's interesting. Anything Ted does is interesting."
Originally introduced in April 2017, Cruz's "Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order" Act — abbreviated to the drug lord's nickname — would take billions out of revenue for drug cartel leaders and use it to build the wall.
"Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way to secure our southern border, and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals," Cruz said of the legislation in January. "By leveraging any criminally forfeited assets of El Chapo and other murderous drug lords, we can offset the cost of securing our border and make meaningful progress toward delivering on the promises made to the American people."
According to The New York Times, Guzmán's drug-related activities accumulated some $14 billion in profits for him. Technically, under a federal measure called forfeiture, the American government could take Guzmán's money as he was convicted of drug trafficking on Tuesday. Here's how Trump reacted to Cruz's idea:
It's worth understanding just how federal forfeiture measures work, especially if Cruz's idea wins acceptance on Capitol Hill (though it's hard to say if that'll ever happen).
If an individual in a criminal case is convicted of illegal activity, a judge can order forfeiture as part of the sentence. It's a measure applied to civil cases as well. It's that federal policy that Cruz's legislation, which was cosponsored by Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, would take advantage of.
In fact, the official text for Cruz's "EL CHAPO" Act states that "any funds that are criminally forfeited to the United States Government as the result of a felony conviction in a Federal district court of a member of a drug cartel [...] shall be reserved for security measures along the border between the United States and Mexico, including the completion of a wall along such border, for the purpose of stemming the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States and furthering the Nation’s security."
Although Cruz's curiously-named legislative piece may seem a little strange to some, the president himself has supported some rather unconventional ideas for his border wall. Several hours before he gave his State of the Union speech on Feb. 5, Trump tweeted of his border demand, "We will build a human wall if necessary."
On Saturday, some of his supporters took his tweet quite literally and created a "human wall" between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as part of a protest.
For Trump, who's still seeking money in a spending bill for his border wall, the drug lord's money could help bring forth one of his presidential campaign promises. But based on his reaction on Wednesday, the president doesn't seem to be all too thrilled about the boldly-titled "EL CHAPO" Act.