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DHS Secretary: 'Sea to Shining Sea' Border Wall 'Unlikely'

A crowd moves past police responding to a report of an explosion near Times Square on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a Senate panel Wednesday that the border wall is not unfolding as a project that will be feasible to build from “sea to shining sea.”

In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Kelly said in the past three months “we’ve seen an absolutely amazing drop in the number of migrants coming out of Central America that are taking that terribly dangerous route from Central America into the United States,” particularly in the number of families and children “that are in that pipeline.”

“It won’t last unless we do something again to secure the border; the wall and our physical barrier, something to secure our border,” he added. “You all know that we’re looking at that. In fact I think the proposals closed out yesterday, what it’ll look like, how tall it will be, how thick it will be, what color it will be, is yet to be determined. All we know is that physical barriers do work if they’re put in the right places.”

Kelly has already consulted with Customs and Border Patrol on “where they want wall” and “exactly how long the wall should be in their sector.”

“They’re also quick to point out that if they can’t have a wall from sea to shining sea then at least give them … the technology that will do the job for them in the locations where they’ve identified to me, and we’ll do that,” he said.

Physical barriers in the right places, he added, can “deflect” illegal border crossers away from cities “where they disappear” to less populated areas — “then it’s easier to pick them up and return them, whether they’re Mexican or whatever.”

Border Patrol officials in various sectors have told him things like “you know boss, if you can give me 27 more miles here, 16 more miles here, I don’t really care about the other 140 miles I’m responsible for, but I need something that works, and to deflect the flow of people, primarily bad actors, people in — not all of whom are bad actors — people who are coming United States for various reasons,” the secretary noted.

Kelly said he doesn’t know at this point how high the wall will be or what materials will go into its construction.

“I will say this, that it’s unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea but … I’m committed to putting it where the men and women say we should put it,” he added.

Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told Kelly that it’s important “the sooner we stop this, you know, we’re going to build a wall from sea to shining sea and the Mexicans are going to pay for it, it’s embarrassing.”

“It’s not going to happen, everybody in Congress knows it’s not going to happen. Every Republican knows it, every Democrat knows it,” she said. “It appears the only person who won’t say it out loud is the president of the United States.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Kelly if he would “interpret” the “word ‘wall’ as being drones, towers, fences, tunnel.”

“In my view, the wall is all of that,” Kelly replied.

“So if we interpret the wall as that, I think most Americans would support it,” McCain said.

McCaskill chimed in, “True.”