Wyoming Senate Kills $5 Million Border Wall Funding After Heated Debate

The Wyoming Senate killed a bill that would have given $5 million to Southern border states to help fight the immigration crisis, but not before a frustrated sponsor Sen. Larry Hicks told his colleagues that failing to do our part could open the door for another 9/11.

Leo Wolfson

February 08, 20236 min read

Sen Larry Hicks
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

There won’t be another brick in the border wall – at least not paid for by Wyoming.

A bill that would have given more than $5 million from the Cowboy State to Texas, Arizona and Florida to help their efforts to build a border wall and transport migrants to other places was killed by the state Senate on Monday evening.

Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, sponsored Senate File 166 as a gesture Wyoming can make in recognizing and helping to address a national immigration crisis. 

The bill ultimately died on a 18-12 vote after some lively debate on the Senate floor.

“When the federal government fails to do a fiduciary responsibility to protect this country and protect our borders, it is incumbent upon the states to step up and protect our United States of America border,” Hicks said.

Brick By Brick

One of former President Donald Trump’s main campaign promisers was to build a wall along the southern border of the United States with Mexico. Although he was partly successful with this effort, a federal court judge put an injunction on the wall’s construction in 2019. 

When President Joe Biden took office, he immediately canceled the federal emergency initiated to fund the wall and a few months later halted all wall construction.

In 2021, Wyoming offered up to $250,000 in aerial assets to deploy in Arizona for addressing the border crisis. After further discussion, Gov. Mark Gordon said it was determined that the assets would not precisely match the needs of the border mission.

It Got Heated

“I’m just amazed at the moral outrage of some individuals of this body,” Hicks said Monday. “Where was this moral outrage when the governor sent resources to the southern border to help with this crisis?”

This prompted Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, to respond that he didn’t support Gordon’s use of the money in the first place.

SF 166 would have allowed Gordon to provide $3 million to Texas and $1.6 million to Arizona. Part of the payouts would include $250,000 to each state for transporting non-citizens to sanctuary cities in other states. 

A similar $250,000 would have gone to Florida for the same purpose.

“I refer to this bill as how you too can be a narco trafficker,” said Sen. Tara Netherott, R-Cheyenne. “This bill recognizes that our border has terrorists and drug traffickers coming through. 

“Simultaneously it proposes picking them up, paying for their transportation to sanctuary cities and states.” 

Also Money For Wyoming

Another $400,000 would have been taken from the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation to train local law enforcement officers to identify and properly address criminal activity, including drug cartels and human trafficking, related to increased illegal immigration. 

Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said he met with DCI officials about the bill Monday morning, who he said told him they would prefer a different approach to these problems.

Nethercott described the legislation as accessory to a crime by helping potential terrorists gain easier access to certain parts of the country. 

The closest sanctuary cities to Wyoming are in northern Colorado, where Larimer (Fort Collins) and Weld (Greeley) counties have pledged to not honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.

“Instead of keeping them at the border, let’s bring them in even closer,” Nethercott said.

Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, brought up the idea of gutting most of the bill’s funding, but spoke in favor of the spirit behind SF 166, evoking the U.S. Constitution.

“The United States guarantees to every state in this union a Republican form of government that shall protect each of them against invasion,” she said.

Not A Wyoming Priority

Some opponents also expressed reservations about giving money to other states.

To which Hicks responded this “the United States of America, Mr. Chairman. E pluribus unum.” 

Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said he has a daughter who lives in a southern border town who volunteers to help with the migrant crisis there. 

Although he described the social environment there as “a mess,” and said conservative states should band together, he voted against the legislation, saying he would rather fund Wyoming law enforcement efforts.

“There’s a lot of things that we have not got taken care of,” he said.

Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, offered a similar sentiment, bringing up the rising property taxes and health insurance issues many Wyoming residents have been facing.


Numerous references to “political theater” and other emotions were made throughout the debate. 

Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, said although he is upset with the wave of fentanyl ravaging the country, he can’t stand with giving money to other states.

“I enjoy good political theater, I like parlor tricks as much as the next person, enjoy a good magic show, a little pixie dust around the corner, it’s always fun,” he said. “I do not believe in any shape or form, Mr. Chairman, that allocating the resources that are discussed in this bill are appropriate for this body.”

There was talk of drafting a resolution to the U.S. Senate and Gierau proposed an amendment allocating a symbolic $1 to each state instead of millions.

“That way we can all enjoy our political theater and we can all enjoy railing against the machine and we can all say we’ve done our duty,” Gierau said.

Hicks did not appreciate the amendment.

“Can we just put this little piece of theater to sleep right now and get back to debating the merits of the bill?” he questioned. 

This amendment failed. 

Of the 2.3 million encounters at the Southern border, 165 were non-citizens of the United States on the terrorist watchlist. 

“It only took 19 of them to get in here and crash planes into the Pentagon, the Twin Towers, the plane they crashed in Pennsylvania,” Hicks said. “Nineteen – maybe 165 should be a wakeup call for this country.”

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter