DHS Secretary: Border Officers Prefer Wall They Can See Through

WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress on Tuesday that law enforcement on the border are telling him they'd rather have a border barrier with visibility to the Mexican side and vice versa.

Kelly told the House Homeland Security Committee about his recent recent down to south Texas to tour "the most affected part of the border" and talk with local police, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol officers.

"We're not going to be able to build a wall everywhere all at once. So, part of the reason I went down there, first and foremost, was to ask the people that know more about this than anyone else on the planet: Do we need -- do we need -- we have walls. There's walls there, parts of walls in strategic places in McAllen on the border," Kelly said. "But do we need more wall?"

"And they said, well, you know, Secretary, we need to extend some walls; we need to fill in some places with physical barriers. My preference -- their preference would not be something they couldn't see through. That was a finding for me," he noted. 'But they very definitely said: Yes, sir, we need a physical barrier backed up by people like us -- meaning CBP and local law enforcement -- with technology where it's appropriate."

"And they had in their mind that many hundreds of miles of that sector, they had places where they wanted a physical barrier constructed, you know, tomorrow or actually yesterday, and then tomorrow -- today, tomorrow -- and you see the point. And they did point out there are parts of the border that are right now not as much of an issue as they are, say, right here in McAllen."

Kelly is planning to visit the Tucson and San Diego sectors this week. "Not going to build it all in an afternoon, so we'll build it in the places that the people that work that border say we need it right now," he said.

Pressed on the timeline, Kelly said it would depend on funding "but I'd like to see that we would be well underway within two years."

"One of the things, just as a comment, we have 650 miles of barrier now on the border that we maintain. I was just told this morning that there's some wall being built in the San Diego sector that was financed and under construction before this administration took over," he added. "So it would appear to me that the former administration had a sense that physical barriers made sense as well."

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) asked the secretary if President Trump's "promise to build a two-thousand mile, big beautiful wall that will cost $14 billion and paid for by Mexico a viable option."

"Building the two-thousand mile wall that was promised during the election is not the best way to achieve boarder security, wouldn't you agree?" Vela asked.

"I wouldn't agree with that at all, no," Kelly replied. "I mean, it's a layered defense that starts with drug demand reduction, it continues with helping particularly the Central American countries socially and economically, that's for sure will stop the movement -- some of the movement of illegal aliens. For sure, an immigration system that doesn't take two, three, four years to return people."

"This will deter people coming up from the Central American countries, most of whom are good people. I don't criticize them at all for wanting to come to the United States," he added. "So there's no one single solution, but for sure in my opinion, barriers and patrolling of the southwest boarder is a big part of it."

There's already 600 miles of fencing along the border, Kelly noted, so they'd "either to fill it in or to -- maybe there are some places that are too rugged to put a wall and we cover that with the patrolling and technology."

"But the people that work the border will tell you that physical barriers and backed up by men and women on patrol is what we need to secure the southwest border," he said.