Will Trump build a 2,000-mile border wall? Turns out, maybe not

  • Robert W. Gee, Austin American-Statesman
11:56 a.m. Thursday, March 30, 2017

Candidate Donald Trump promised a “big, beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump has repeated that pledge.

Trump’s border security executive order signed five days after he took office calls for “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier.”

Recent comments from Trump administration officials and other Republicans, however, suggest that a contiguous physical barrier may not come to pass.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said this week that building a border wall in Texas would “cede” territory to Mexico because it would have to be built some distance from the Rio Grande. He also acknowledged the difficulty of building a wall in rugged West Texas, where the river dissects the Chihuahuan Desert, a moonscape of mountains and deep canyons.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last month said that the wall would “take a multi-layered approach,” with parts of the border security strategy relying on electronic sensors — technology currently employed by the U.S. Border Patrol. He described “parts of the wall that you can actually see,” apparently because in those areas there wouldn’t be a physical barrier.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told Texas reporters that Trump spoke “metaphorically” when he referred to a border wall. Cornyn said what was needed instead was a combination of infrastructure, technology and personnel.

“You’re going to have some places like Big Bend … where obviously a wall is not necessary and would not be useful,” Cornyn said, referring to the high canyon walls that rise from Rio Grande.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, has also called for a “multi-layered approach” to border security. “I don’t think we need a 2,000-mile wall down there,” McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told PBS after returning from the Rio Grande Valley last month.

Government documents seeking proposals from companies to start construction describe a barrier 30 feet high, made of reinforced concrete or of “other material” such as fencing that would also be 6 feet deep to inhibit tunneling. Bids are due Tuesday.

Meanwhile, money to build the wall is not forthcoming. Senate Republicans are tapping the breaks on the Trump administration’s request for an initial $1.5 billion to build the wall.

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