No need to wait on a bill from Congress. Turns out, Donald Trump’s most repeated and significant campaign promise is a building project that could literally get started on day one.
That’s because Congress has already passed a bill that authorizes a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
In fact, the Secure Fence Act, passed with bipartisan support in 2006 including “yea” votes from then Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to “take all actions the secretary determines necessary and appropriate to achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States.”
According to the Washington Examiner’s Byron York:
Specifically, the law called for the usual mix of high-tech sensors, cameras, border checkpoints, vehicle barriers and other measures along the U.S.-Mexico border. And then it ordered Homeland Security to “provide for [at]* least 2 layers of reinforced fencing” and “the installation of additional physical barriers” for hundreds of miles on the southern border. For example, it ordered double fencing for the area “10 miles west of the Calexico, California port of entry to 5 miles east of the Douglas, Arizona, port of entry” — a span that would cover nearly the entire Arizona-Mexico border. The law ordered heavy fencing in other border areas as well.
The law’s reference to “at least” a double-layer fence, plus its mention of “additional physical barriers,” suggests that Congress specified the minimum amount that Homeland Security should do — not the maximum.
Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies told the Examiner: “The Secure Fence Act and the later amendment give full leeway to the president to determine what kind of fencing is appropriate, as long as it enhances security. Clearly, action to upgrade the existing fencing and add additional barriers is authorized. If the president and his border security team want a wall instead of a fence, or an electric fence instead of a double chain link, or a fence of flowers instead of steel, they can do it.”
A “later amendment” was passed the next year, sponsored by Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, that gave DHS some leeway in the construction, but it did nothing to prevent more from being done.
So in effect, should Trump decide to keep his promise (and there’s no reason to think he won’t), construction could begin on day one of his presidency, completing a job that was only barely started with 36.3 miles of double-layer fencing existing now along America’s 1,954 mile southern border.
York writes that lawsuits will be the most serious obstacle for Trump’s wall, “From environmentalists. From property owners. From activist groups. From political opponents. From gadflies. From all around.”
Thankfully, Trump-the-builder has more than a little experience dealing with such frivolities, which may turn out to be the billionaire-developer turned president-elect’s most valuable experience yet.
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