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Arizona lawmakers offer differing opinions on Trump’s border wall proposal

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — President Donald Trump took the first steps to construct a U.S.-Mexico border wall on Wednesday, a move that drew mixed reactions from Arizona lawmakers.

The president signed an executive order to begin construction on the border wall within “months,” fulfilling a major campaign promise that many thought was too extreme to enact.

Trump said the wall will crack down on the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs from Mexico and will help make the country safer overall.

But some Arizona lawmakers still have their reservations about the wall, arguing that it will ultimately be ineffective.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said he supports stronger border security measures, but does not believe a giant wall along the border will completely eradicate the problem.

“I’ve always said we need more and better barriers,” Flake told reporters Wednesday night. “But there is some terrain where you don’t need a wall, you don’t need anything, you just need surveillance. It’s a multi-faceted problem. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘We need a wall for 2,000 miles along the border.'”

Flake said he has his reserves about who will fund the construction of the wall, saying he doesn’t “believe Mexico will pay” the U.S. back at all.

In his first televised interview since taking office, Trump said American taxpayers will put up the money to build the wall, then Mexico will reimburse the money “100 percent.”

Mexico has repeatedly said they would not pay for the wall, and President Enrique Peña Nieto reaffirmed the stance in a video Wednesday.

Trump himself has estimated the construction to cost around $12 billion, while some experts have said the price tag could reach well past $38 billion.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego echoed Flake’s concerns Wednesday, saying illegal immigration can be controlled through “comprehensive immigration reform, an employer verification process and visas to help ease the labor shortages that occur.”

“I just think like many who understand the border and understand immigration, that this is just a waste of time and money,” Gallego said. “It’s just a quick fix and in the end, I think it’s going to slow down what really needs to happen, which is comprehensive immigration reform.”

Republican Sen. John McCain, who said earlier this month that a wall would not be enough to secure the border, said in an interview with Arizona’s Morning News Wednesday that using technology, such as drones, would lead to stronger border security.

Several other Arizona lawmakers, including Republican Reps. Martha McSally, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs stood behind Trump’s decision to sign the executive order.

McSally said in an interview Wednesday that she believes it is a “good step in the first week to show that we’re serious about border reform.”

“Border security is something that’s really important to Arizona and the constituents I represent,” McSally said. “It’s great to see that we’re finally moving forward on border security measures.”

Democratic Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva said in a statement Wednesday that the wall will “squander billions of taxpayer dollars” and continue the “criminalization of immigrants and asylum seekers through mandatory detention.”

But the some of the hardest opposition on the border wall construction came from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

Stanton, who has long stood his ground against harsh immigration policies in Phoenix, said in a release Wednesday that the executive order “unleashed a divisive attack on Latinos in Phoenix and around the country.”

“The president’s executive orders will not make us safer, but instead will incite fear and chaos for Latinos and immigrants alike,” the release read. “But be assured: We will fight the federal government’s attempt to turn the Phoenix Police Department into a mass deportation force.”

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