Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Sunday said President Donald Trump's administration will be building its promised wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, and will have Mexico pay for it "one way or the other" — even if they have to pursue individual Mexicans living in the U.S. to foot the bill.
"We're going to get paid for it one way or the other," Sessions said on ABC's This Week. "I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments, according to the Department of the Treasury's own inspector general several years ago, that are going to payments to people — tax credits that they shouldn't get.
"Now, these are mostly Mexicans," he continued. "And those kind of things add up — $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion. There are a lot of ways we can find money to help pay for this."
As Politico noted, Sessions appears to be inaccurately referencing a 2011 Treasury Department report individuals without valid work credentials received up to $4.2 billion in tax credits they did not qualify for. That report did not reference the nationalities of any of the recipients of that funding, however, and refers to persons without a social security number receiving the Additional Child Tax Credit. Many of those receiving the credit are undocumented parents of legal U.S. citizens.
It would also likely be very difficult for the White House to find funding for the wall without seeking approval from Congress. Estimates for its cost have ranged from the extremely expensive ($21.6 billion) to much more expensive than even that ($70 billion, per Senate Democrats).
Beyond that, Sessions' suggestion seems to be more or less that if it can't get the Mexican government to pay for the wall, it will shift its focus to making sure individuals it thinks are Mexican do — which is both a further abstraction of Trump's original promise and unlikely to reassure those concerned about Sessions' civil rights record before becoming attorney general.