[Rushtalk] NY Times:( Trump Seeks Path for Mexico Barrier. But Will It Be a ‘Big, Beautiful Wall’?

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at juno.com
Sat Apr 1 16:09:24 MDT 2017

Trump Seeks Path for Mexico Barrier. But Will It Be a ‘Big, Beautiful


Trucks on the World Trade International Bridge between Laredo, Tex., and
Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. Credit Eric Gay/Associated Press 

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team has asked federal
border protection officials for guidance on where a new wall separating
the United States from Mexico — a signature promise of Mr. Trump’s
campaign — can be erected, according to a Democratic congressman from
Texas who opposes the idea.

But the officials exploring possible paths for such a barrier also
appear to be considering fencing and other options short of the “big,
beautiful wall” that Mr. Trump regularly vowed to erect, at Mexico’s
expense, along a border of more than 1,900 miles.

The discussions with federal border officials, along with separate talks
with city officials in Laredo, Tex., one of the busiest crossings, come
as aides to Mr. Trump maintain that construction of a border wall will
be a top priority of his administration.

In an interview, Representative Henry Cuellar, whose district includes a
200-mile stretch of border and reaches 150 miles north, to San Antonio,
said that the chief patrol agents from two border sectors in the state
had contacted him last week. They said they were doing so at the request
of the incoming administration, Mr. Cuellar said, and solicited his
ideas for where such a wall, or a fence, should be built.

“I’m one of the few congressmen who doesn’t have a fence in his area,”
Mr. Cuellar said. “They asked us to put some locations down, so we
talked about areas they’d proposed and some infrastructure, whether it’s
a wall or fencing.”

The chief patrol agents, whom an aide to Mr. Cuellar identified as Mario
Martinez of the Laredo sector and Manuel Padilla Jr. of the Rio Grande
Valley sector, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Customs and
Border Protection, Carlos Diaz.

According to Mr. Cuellar, the agents said they had argued against the
transition team’s request, and shared his view that it would be
impossible to wall or fence off Laredo, a city of 255,000 and the
busiest inland port on the American side of the border. They said the
transition team had insisted.

“The Trump headquarters came back and said no,” Mr. Cuellar said he was
told. “The Trump people wanted to see suggestions as to where a fence or
wall could be put.”

A spokesman for the transition, Jason Miller, declined to comment.

Mr. Cuellar was not the only Texas elected official approached by border
officials about where to place a new barrier.

The mayor of Laredo, Pete Saenz, said in an interview that officials
from the Border Patrol’s Laredo sector had approached the city manager
last week with plans for removing vegetation and installing additional
fencing, lighting, roads, surveillance equipment and other security
measures along portions of the border.

The plan did not mention a wall, said Mr. Saenz, a Democrat, which he
said was “frankly, a big relief.” But he said it included details about
fencing that would be placed for short distances along key parts of the
city on the border, including a water plant.

Photo Mayor Pete Saenz of Laredo, Tex., said Border Patrol officials
discussed additional fencing and surveillance but did not mention a
wall. Credit Eric Gay/Associated Press 

Though it could gratify Mr. Trump’s political supporters, erecting a new
barrier would carry great significance in Laredo, which is across the
Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. It has developed
close ties with its sister city and grown into a trade hub.

Walling off Laredo, Mr. Cuellar said, would damage the flow of commerce,
among other things. “It’s a 14th-century solution to a 21st-century
problem,” he said.

But both he and Mr. Saenz sounded less than adamantly opposed to
additional border fences.

Some fencing already stands in vast portions of the 1,254-mile border
between Texas and Mexico, Mr. Saenz noted.


“I would have no problem with it if it’s strategically placed and it’s
well designed,” Mr. Saenz said. “In other words, if it doesn’t look too
prisonlike. I think if we had a road, possibly a fence, and then
lighting, I think that would help. I don’t think the folks here would be
too, too upset.

“But the nature of a huge wall, concrete and that sort of thing, is
upsetting,” he continued. “We have a very close relationship with
Mexico, especially the commerce that comes to our city, and a huge wall
would obviously be offensive to Mexico and to the people that do
business with Mexico here.”

Mr. Saenz recalled that the Border Patrol years ago installed steel
fencing along the perimeter of a community college on the border, which
he said had deterred illegal border crossers from coming onto campus.

“To be honest with you, I think we were happy with it,” he said. “I
think it took care of the problem.”

In the weeks since he won the presidency, Mr. Trump has dropped his vow
to pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, while boasting that
it had been an effective campaign tactic, and he has softened his
posture on whether to deport the more than 700,000 people in the country
illegally who entered the United States as children.

But no promise by Mr. Trump came to symbolize his campaign more than his
call for a wall with Mexico to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants,
and his top aides, including Reince Priebus, who is to serve as his
chief of staff, say it remains a priority — though they have offered no
further information on how a wall would be financed.

At the same time, border migration is shifting: Mexicans, whom Mr. Trump
demonized during his campaign, are leaving the United States in greater
numbers than they are arriving, according to the Pew Research Center.
But Central Americans fleeing violence in their home countries are
pouring across the border, often welcoming arrest by the Border Patrol
as a first step toward seeking asylum.

“We have the lowest northbound apprehensions in modern history,” despite
spending a record $19.5 billion on border enforcement, said
Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso.

“Additional walls or fences, physical or virtual, are not a good use of
taxpayer resources,” he said. “And they also pose the risk of taking our
eyes off threats where they are known to exist or likely to be, and that
happens not to be at the border with Mexico.”

For breaking news and in-depth reporting, follow @NYTNational on

A version of this article appears in print on December 23, 2016, on Page
A13 of the New York edition with the headline: Seeking a Path for a
Mexico Barrier. 


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