According to an internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that Reuters reviewed, once he’s inaugurated on January 20, President Donald Trump will hit the ground running on constructing that US-Mexico border wall he’s promised.
Julia Edwards Ainsley reports for Reuters, Jan. 3, 2017, that the DHS memo “offers a glimpse into the president-elect’s strategy for securing the U.S. borders and reversing polices put in place by the Obama administration.”
The DHS memo recounts “wide-ranging” requests for documents and analysis by Trump’s transition team in a meeting the team had with DHS officials on December 5, 2016. Trump asked for the documents in order “to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.”
Trump’s transition team asked for documents and information on:
(1) Copies of every executive order and directive Obama sent to immigration agents since he took office in 2009. (Note that President Trump can undo Obama’s executive orders with a wave of his pen and without Congressional consent or approval. See “How Trump can undo what Obama did in past 8 years”)
(2) A DHS aerial surveillance program called Operation Phalanx, which authorizes 1,200 Army National Guard airmen to monitor the southern border for drug trafficking and illegal migration. The program once deployed 6,000 airmen under President George W. Bush but was considerably scaled back by Obama.
(3) Whether federal workers have altered DHS’s biographic information about migrants “out of concern” for their civil rights and civil liberties. A DHS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agency interpreted this Trump transition team request to mean the transition team wanted to make sure that federal workers were not tampering with information to protect DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and other migrants from deportation.
Note: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an Obama administration immigration policy that allows certain
undocumented immigrants illegal aliens who entered the U.S. as minors (defined as before their 16th birthday) to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. To be eligible, they must have (illegally) entered the U.S. before June 2007; are under age 31 as of June 15, 2015; are currently in school or a high school graduate or honorably discharged from the military; have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or otherwise pose a threat to national security. DACA does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship. DACA has collected information including participants’ addresses that can theoretically be used to locate and deport them if the policy is reversed.
(4) DHS’s capacity for expanding “immigrant” detention.
(5) Resources available for building walls and barriers. DHS officials who attended the meeting with Trump’s transition team understood the request to include both the northern and southern borders. In response, U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffers identified:
- Specific locations in more than 400 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, and about the same distance along the U.S.-Canada border, where new fencing could be erected.
- The costs of building a fence are estimated at $3.3 billion for 452 miles along the U.S.-Canada border, and $11.37 billion for 413 miles of fencing on America’s southwest border which would keep pedestrians as well as vehicles from crossing. Pedestrian fences require more staff and would cost $11.2 million per mile.
In fiscal year 2015, the latest year for which data is available, border patrol agents apprehended 331,333 illegal migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border, and 2,626 illegal migrants on the U.S.-Canada border.