Rules keep Trump from see­ing bor­der wall de­sign

Model pro­pos­als due in Oc­to­ber

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

Spokesman: The pres­i­dent reg­u­larly asks for project up­dates.

Pres­i­dent Trump gets up­dates on his pro­posed bor­der wall, but his sug­ges­tions won’t af­fect the de­sign, and he’s be­ing kept in the dark about the pro­to­types be­ing con­tem­plated per fed­eral con­tract­ing rules, a Home­land Se­cu­rity spokesman said Wed­nes­day.

Mr. Trump has in the past sug­gested the wall should be fit­ted with so­lar pan­els and the en­ergy sold to help pay for the costs, and also said a see-through wall was crit­i­cal to giv­ing Bor­der Pa­trol agents a sense for what’s go­ing on in Mex­ico.

None of that will in­flu­ence the con­tract, though, said David La­pan, deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary at Home­land Se­cu­rity.

“The pres­i­dent, while he has been and con­tin­ues to be briefed on the wall writ large — the progress, sort of how we are do­ing in ful­fill­ing his or­der to se­cure the bor­der — the pro­to­type process is in the fed­eral pro­cure­ment process, and the pres­i­dent is not in­volved in that at all,” Mr. La­pan said.

The spokesman said the pres­i­dent is very in­ter­ested in the project and reg­u­larly asks for up­dates from de­part­ment of­fi­cials, both on the wall and on progress to­ward se­cur­ing the bor­der, but de­tails on the on­go­ing com­pe­ti­tion to se­lect pro­to­types is com­part­men­tal­ized.

“He’s not been briefed on any of the specifics,” Mr. La­pan said.

Mr. La­pan also said Mr. Trump’s plans to add 10,000 new de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers and 5,000 more Bor­der Pa­trol agents to cur­rent staffing lev­els could change de­pend­ing on how the hir­ing goes.

Then-can­di­date Trump had promised those num­bers dur­ing the cam­paign as part of his vow for a de­por­ta­tion force to tackle il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

But a Home­land Se­cu­rity in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port ear­lier this week said the de­part­ment hasn’t been able to jus­tify those num­bers, and said given hir­ing hur­dles, it re­quire 750,000 ap­pli­ca­tions to hire that num­ber of bor­der agents and 500,000 ap­pli­cants to fill the po­si­tions at U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

In the case of Bor­der Pa­trol, Home­land Se­cu­rity said Mr. Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der ear­lier this year re­set the stan­dard for op­er­a­tional con­trol of the bor­der.

“With the change in the stan­dard, Bor­der Pa­trol will have to grow and be­come more ca­pa­ble on the bor­der. This in­cludes ad­di­tional boots on the ground, tech­nol­ogy and in­fras­truc­ture,” the de­part­ment said.

The bor­der has seen dra­matic im­prove­ments in stem­ming the flow of unau­tho­rized mi­grants in the six months since Mr. Trump took of­fice, though drug seizures re­main high.

The pres­i­dent has of­fered his wall as a so­lu­tion to both prob­lems.

For­mer Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly signed a waiver giv­ing his de­part­ment ex­emp­tions from 37 laws that could have hin­dered con­struc­tion of the new wall pro­to­types. Among the waivers are some of the coun­try’s most iconic en­vi­ron­men­tal, re­li­gious and Amer­i­can In­dian pro­tec­tion laws.

Democrats and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists blasted the waivers.

Rep. Ben­nie G. Thomp­son of Mis­sis­sippi, rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said the 2005 law that es­tab­lished the waivers was meant to short-cir­cuit drawn-out le­gal bat­tles, not to “rush” con­struc­tion.

“Given the sub­stan­tial im­pact these con­struc­tion projects have on com­mu­ni­ties and the en­vi­ron­ment along the bor­der, the de­part­ment should not ig­nore its obli­ga­tion to fol­low the law and com­mit­ment to due dili­gence,” Mr. Thomp­son said.

Mr. La­pan said they still in­tend to fol­low the laws as best they can, but the waivers were meant to keep con­struc­tion from get­ting bogged down in red tape and le­gal bat­tles.

The cur­rent sched­ule calls for pro­to­types to be built in late Oc­to­ber. Un­der the terms of fund­ing, con­struc­tion must be com­pleted within 30 days.

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