President Donald Trump built his campaign on the promise of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. Just a month after his inauguration, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to begin construction. And last Friday, the department took a step to make sure it will look good. In a little-noticed update, the department now says it wants a wall that will be “nominally 30 feet tall,” and, importantly, that bids will be judged on “aesthetics,” as well. The new language, perhaps coincidental but likely not, appears to be a bureaucratic translation of Trump’s oft-repeated promise to build a “beautiful” wall from 30 to 55 feet high.
It’s hard to find anyone in Washington who knows border issues better than Alan Bersin. His unique perspective combines years of frontline law enforcement experience with academic knowledge and intellectual interest in the historical, economic and social forces that are at work at the borders of the United States, especially the U.S.-Mexico line. Bersin became U.S. attorney in San Diego in 1993 and subsequently spent almost five years as President Clinton’s “border czar,” overseeing a border-wide crackdown on illegal immigration and drug smuggling. During the Obama administration, he served in several key posts in the Department of Homeland Security, including as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the force of 58,000 employees that includes the U.S. Border Patrol as well as CBP officers guarding air, land and sea ports of entry. He later served as assistant secretary for international affairs and chief diplomatic officer at DHS, a job he left last month.
In a video message intended for the tens of thousands of men and women working to keep drugs and people from illegally entering the United States, then-Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ron Colburn wanted to leave little doubt about the consequences for those who betrayed their mission. “The light of justice will ultimately drive you from the shadows,” Colburn said in the 2009 message, one of many produced by the agency to combat corruption in its ranks. “You will find no safe haven among fellow criminals. You will be identified. You will be arrested.
U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich want more resources for Border Patrol agents in New Mexico’s bootheel area. The two U.S. Senators sent a letter to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske asking for the additional support, which would include at least a dozen more horses to patrol some “rugged and mountainous terrain” and more financial incentives to stem the high rate of turnover for Border Patrol agents. “Our meetings with local residents and officials helped to identify several actions that you could take to help make the border more secure and help our constituents feel safer in their homes,” Heinrich and Udall wrote. “We respectfully ask that you consider each of these proposals and take appropriate action to implement them as soon as possible.” Both U.S. Senators are Democrats.