Donald Trump has officially taken the first step in his promise to “build the wall.” According to Reuters, the Trump transition team presented a “wide-ranging request for documents and analysis” to the Department of Homeland Security in early December “to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.”
Reuters learned about the requests via an internal agency memo regarding a Dec. 5 meeting between Trump’s transition team and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. In the meeting, Trump’s team asked for information about the department’s capacity to expand immigrant detention and its aerial surveillance program that President Obama significantly “downsized.” The team also asked for details about Obama’s executive orders on immigration and “whether federal workers have altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties.”
One program the transition team asked about, according to the email summary, was Operation Phalanx, an aerial surveillance program that authorizes 1,200 Army National Guard airmen to monitor the southern border for drug trafficking and illegal migration.
The program once deployed 6,000 airmen under President George W. Bush but was downsized by Barack Obama, a move blasted by some conservatives who argue the surveillance is vital to border security.
The transition team also asked for copies of every executive order and directive sent to immigration agents since Obama took office in 2009, according to the memo summarizing the meeting.
The memo provided some of the details of the department’s response, including identifying “more than 400 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, and about the same distance along the U.S.-Canada border, where new fencing could be erected.”
Though Trump has only seriously discussed building a wall on the southern border, the agency provided a report showing specific locations and costs for building both southern and northern security fences. In the south, DHS identified 413 miles where a border fence could be built and estimated the total cost to be $11.37 billion. Along the Canadian border, the agency identified 452 miles, costing a total of $3.3 billion. The reason for the higher cost for the southern border, Reuters explains, is its focus on keeping out pedestrians rather than just vehicles.