The new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), retired Marine General John Kelly, believes he can make good on President Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2 years or less.
In an interview with Fox News late Wednesday, Secretary Kelly said, “The wall will be built where it’s needed first, and then it will be filled in. That’s the way I look at it. I really hope to have it done within the next two years.”
Kelly’s attitude toward border enforcement is 180 degrees from previous heads of DHS — even under President Bush, whose Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson halted all interior enforcement in Southern California due to political outcry back in 2004.
As a General, Kelly is as accustomed to giving orders as following them.
While it may be an ambitious schedule, unlike his predecessors, Secretary Kelly will not have to fight the executive branch in order to secure the border. In the same interview, he sounded optimistic about Congress, saying that the money will come.
“I think the funding will come relatively quickly and like I said, we will build it where it’s needed first as identified by the men and women who work the border,” Kelly emphasized.
Speaker Paul Ryan confirmed Kelly’s optimism in an interview Thursday with Fox & Friends.
“We have already authorized this, meaning the law was passed almost 10 years ago,” Ryan said. “And then we will give the financing to Secretary Kelly and the border security plan. So, it’s really up to them as to how fast they can execute this policy. I think that’s great. He’s the kind of guy that can get this sort of thing done. He will have the funding to do it and he already has the authorization to do it.”
Ryan is referring to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was passed by Congress, signed into law by President Bush, but never adequately funded and never fully executed.
According to a Yahoo News story, cost estimates are all over the map: “Trump has said that his cost estimates for building the wall range from $4 to $10 billion, but other estimates put the price at $11 billion for 400 more miles of fencing. The MIT Technology Review estimated that a 1,000 mile steel and concrete wall would cost $27 to $40 billion.”
Whatever the cost, a wall is only one part of the solution — but according to those charged with securing the border, it is a critically important and welcome tool in their arsenal.
Even though Democrats are likely to throw up road blocks, citing environmental and other concerns—which have succeeded in the past in delaying construction indefinitely—Secretary Kelly has the backing of the President and his advisors. Whatever roadblocks arise, the retired Marine General is likely to steamroll over, tunnel under or just blow up.
Until today, the single most important component required to complete the border wall has not been money or materials, but political will.
Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.