Three West Virginia House of Delegates members are calling for $10 million of the state’s nearly $200 million budget surplus to be used to “help President Donald Trump build a wall along the southern U.S. border.”
Republican Delegates Carl Martin (Upshur), Patrick Martin (Lewis), and Caleb Hanna (Webster) released a statement explaining their proposal: “West Virginians support our President and the wall. They are sick of seeing Washington politicians sit on their hands while drugs and criminals pour over our border. It’s time for the states to stand up and do what they can to support our President in his fight to protect innocent Americans.”
Where to begin…
My nature is to give most people the benefit of the doubt and, in this case, presume that the delegates have legitimate concerns about border security and support construction of a border wall with Mexico. That would put them in the company of most West Virginians, who gave Trump a 42 point victory in 2016.
I thought the delegates were just trying to make a point; they really didn’t mean for $10 million of our tax dollars to go toward the wall. However, Delegate Patrick Martin assured me on Talkline Wednesday that, yes, they want the state to help pay for the wall to help stop the flow of illegal drugs. Martin accurately points out that those drugs are a serious problem in West Virginia.
However, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations are the biggest suppliers of illegal drugs to the United States. DEA reports the most common method of smuggling those drugs into the U.S. is “through U.S. ports of entry in passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor trailers.”
The smugglers are moving such large amounts that it would be impractical, if not impossible, to carry the product on foot across the border.
The West Virginia delegates may want improved border security, but that’s a federal responsibility. Congress created the U.S. Border Patrol in 1924 with that specific job. The Border Patrol, which is the law enforcement arm of U.S. Customs and Border Protection with the Department of Homeland Security, is charged with securing the borders.
Finally, and most critically, why would the delegates want to throw $10 million dollars from West Virginia taxpayers into the federal black hole when our state has almost more needs than you can count. Here’s just one: Rather than putting that money into a concrete wall along the Mexican border, buy $10 million worth of concrete here and patch the secondary roads.
Back in 2009, Delegate Jeff Eldridge (D-Logan) introduced a bill to ban the sale of Barbie dolls and dolls like them in West Virginia because they influenced girls “to place an undue importance on physical beauty.” I remember Eldridge giving an impassioned speech on the floor about how young girls can struggle with self esteem.
It was heartfelt and well-meaning, but of course trying to pass a bill to ban Barbie was a silly idea and it never went anywhere.
The West Virginia Legislature is an easy target for criticism. As a body of people and politics it is flawed by its very nature. Put 134 people (100 Delegates and 34 Senators) together for two months and some wacky things are going to be said and done.
However, one of the reassuring aspects of the West Virginia Legislature is that—believe it or not—nutty bills are (almost) always relegated to the trash heap.