Trump says position on border wall remains unchanged

Phillip Cunningham
January 19, 2018

The escalating immigration drama is crystallizing for some lawmakers and presidential advisers their long-held views of John Kelly, President Donald Trump's chief of staff: He's a fierce advocate for hardline policies that drastically limit the number of people entering the US.

President Donald Trump's very public pushback against his chief of staff's statement that the president's views on a border wall have "evolved" is casting a fresh spotlight on the limits of John Kelly's ability to manage White House tumult, navigate Capitol Hill and keep a demanding, scattershot president on track.

Although the White House acknowledged that the Mexican government isn't going to pay for it. Kelly said that Trump has "evolved" in the way he looks at things. "Parts of it will be, of necessity, see through [sic] and it was never meant to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water".

Prototypes of border walls in San Diego.

"Concrete wall is not a realistic solution in many places", Kelly said, noting that the physical features of portions of the border would make it challenging to construct a wall along the 2,100-mile stretch between the USA and Mexico.

He was referring to Trump's demand for a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

"The $20 billion dollar Wall is "peanuts" compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!" he said, reasserting his position on the trade pact which is now being renegotiated.

Kelly told lawmakers that "he was the one who tempered" Trump "on the issue of the wall, on the issue of DACA", said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who attended the session.

"That deal that came over was supposed to be two things: bipartisan and both sides of the Hill", Kelly said.

Also, the chief of staff said the government was focussing on the situation of Dreamers - undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children - whose protection from deportation lapses in March, unless Congress can reinstate it through a legislation that is the subject of intense debate and negotiations.

After serving as homeland security secretary and commander of US military forces in Latin America, Kelly told lawmakers that he has helped Trump "evolve on issues of the wall".

"You make campaign promises but then you learn the reality of governing, which is hard", Kelly said, per a lawmaker at the meeting.

Democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez said told The New York Times that Mr Kelly said "a 50-foot wall from sea to shining sea isn't what we're going to build". The president has shifted his tone on what the wall might look like, though.

It became clear last summer that President Trump's proposed wall isn't feasible when he told reporters that the wall he had in mind was somehow solar-powered and transparent in certain places, so that Americans could dodge the "large sacks of drugs" what would invariably get catapulted over the barrier.

Trump ended the legal shields on "Dreamers" past year and gave Congress until March to renew them. And recently it has been a sticking point on immigration negotiations.

"The president is frustrated with the media coverage of the last 24 hours", said Raj Shah, deputy White House spokesman.

"Please don't use that term", Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-California, told Kelly, explaining the phrase is considered loaded and offensive. He said Trump talked to Sen.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., laid the groundwork Wednesday for attacks on Democrats who vote against the funding plan, arguing that failing to pass the bill would hurt the military as well as beneficiaries of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which the bill would extend.

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