Shore-to-shore bor­der bar­rier looks un­likely

Home­land Se­cu­rity will study pro­to­types

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der wall will not stretch all the way from the Gulf of Mex­ico to the Pa­cific Ocean, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly said Wed­nes­day, for the first time putting some lim­its on the length of the bar­rier that he is be­gin­ning to build.

“It’s un­likely we will build a wall or phys­i­cal bar­rier from sea to shin­ing sea,” Mr. Kelly told the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, which has been prob­ing ad­vances in bor­der se­cu­rity and Mr. Trump’s pro­posed wall.

Pro­to­type de­signs for the wall were due Tues­day night, and the next step is for the gov­ern­ment to

pick out win­ners and have them build test sec­tions, which Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials will test to see whether they can with­stand breach at­tempts and de­ter climbers.

The de­part­ment asked for pro­to­types to be 30 feet high, but Mr. Kelly said he is not sure what the even­tual size will be, nor what it will look like.

Mr. Kelly said be­cause he doesn’t know what the wall will look like nor how much will be built, he can’t pre­dict the cost. But he shot down spec­u­la­tion that the en­tire south­west bor­der would be blocked.

Mr. Trump sug­gested dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign last year that the wall would go along the bor­der, but Mr. Kelly said he is sure the pres­i­dent will take his rec­om­men­da­tion.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Mis­souri Demo­crat, said Mr. Trump’s brash as­ser­tion of a com­plete bor­der wall has soured Congress on the plans. If the pres­i­dent would ac­knowl­edge Mr. Kelly’s lower tar­get, she said, it would im­prove the de­bate.

“You get it, we all get it. But the pres­i­dent is so stub­born,” she said.

The U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der stretches about 1,950 miles. Of that, just 354 miles have a fence. An­other 300 miles have bar­ri­ers de­signed to stop ve­hi­cles but won’t stop peo­ple on foot.

Congress has re­peat­edly voted to build more fenc­ing, in­clud­ing most re­cently a 2013 vote in the Se­nate to add 350 more miles of fenc­ing. That vote, which was part of that year’s failed im­mi­gra­tion bill, earned the sup­port of ev­ery Demo­crat in the cham­ber at that time.

But both Repub­li­cans and Democrats are now ques­tion­ing the scope of Mr. Trump’s plans and won­der­ing whether walls will be worth the cost.

Those ques­tions have in­ten­si­fied as it has be­come clear that il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is drop­ping dra­mat­i­cally un­der Mr. Trump, even be­fore the first mile of wall is added.

The Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment said this week that ap­pre­hen­sions along the south­west bor­der — a rough yard­stick for the over­all flow of mi­grants — are down a stun­ning 72 per­cent since De­cem­ber. The num­ber of un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren and fam­i­lies, which surged un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, is down 91 per­cent.

Just as stun­ning was a drop in the num­ber of il­le­gal im­mi­grant Haitians who had been show­ing up at ports of en­try and de­mand­ing to be let in. Last year, they were com­ing at a rate of more than 3,500 a month, en­ticed by what an­a­lysts said was a lax en­force­ment pol­icy. In March, just 100 showed up.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment of the dra­matic drop in il­le­gal south­ern bor­der ap­pre­hen­sions demon­strates that the pres­i­dent’s com­mit­ment to se­cur­ing our bor­der and sup­port­ing law en­force­ment is al­ready show­ing re­sults,” White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said.

Home­land Se­cu­rity also re­leased its third weekly name-and-shame re­port on sanc­tu­ary ci­ties Wed­nes­day, iden­ti­fy­ing some 65 more im­mi­grants who were re­leased from pris­ons and jails rather than turned over to U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cers for de­por­ta­tion.

Drunken driv­ing and as­sault charges were the most com­mon on the list, but Philadel­phia re­leased a Mex­i­can charged with mak­ing a ter­ror­ist threat, and Santa Fe, New Mex­ico, re­leased a Mex­i­can con­victed of con­tribut­ing to the delin­quency of a mi­nor.

The num­ber of ju­ris­dic­tions deemed sanc­tu­ar­ies dropped from 151 last week to 146 on the list this week. ICE of­fi­cials said they are con­tin­u­ously up­dat­ing the list with tips from the pub­lic and with in­for­ma­tion from ci­ties and coun­ties that say their poli­cies have changed or don’t qual­ify.

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing, Mr. Kelly faced re­sis­tance from Democrats who wor­ried that his de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers and agents are cast­ing too wide a net.

Sen. Ka­mala D. Harris, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, prod­ded Mr. Kelly to ex­plain how agents are to use the pri­or­i­ties list he re­leased, re­plac­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s more nar­row list.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had a three-tier list and told agents that they should pur­sue il­le­gal im­mi­grants at the higher pri­or­i­ties.

Mr. Kelly’s list has seven pri­or­i­ties, and he said they aren’t ranked in or­der — agents should feel free to try to de­port any il­le­gal im­mi­grant who in the agents’ judg­ment meets a pri­or­ity cat­e­gory.

“The di­rec­tion they have is the start point is il­le­gal sta­tus, then some­thing from the pri­or­i­ties,” he said.

Mr. Kelly also shot down fears that he would sep­a­rate moth­ers from their chil­dren when they are caught at the bor­der, say­ing that will hap­pen only in ex­treme cir­cum­stances in which the mother is a drug ad­dict or oth­er­wise a po­ten­tial dan­ger to her fam­ily.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A taller fence be­ing built along U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der re­places a gray metal fence in front of it in the Anapra neigh­bor­hood of Ci­u­dad Juarez, Mex­ico, across from Sun­land Park, New Mex­ico. The Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment will be look­ing at and test­ing pro­to­types to find the best types of bar­ri­ers along the south­west­ern bor­der.

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