Like the twisting Rio Grande, President Trump’s position on a border wall is changing course.
The president, who made the promise of a “big, beautiful border wall” one of the cornerstone promises of his campaign, significantly dialed back on the pledge Thursday, telling reporters that a 2,000-mile-long wall is no longer necessary “because you have a lot of natural barriers.”
“You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious,” Trump said, according to excerpts released by the White House from the president’s conversation with journalists aboard Air Force One. “You have some areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing. So, you don’t need that.”
Hmmm, that sounds a lot like Texas to us.
RELATED: “Why the border wall fences us in”
The president said he now believes only 700 to 900 miles of wall are needed. About 650 miles of the border with Mexico are already protected by fences or walls; many of those miles in Texas. Trump seemed to suggest that repairing fences already in place would count against the total miles he has in mind, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“You know, we’ve already started the wall because we’re fixing large portions of wall right now,” Trump said. “We’re taking wall that was good but it’s in very bad shape, and we’re making it new.”
At campaign rallies, where supporters’ chants of “build that wall” became a staple, Trump often talked about a wall 30 feet high running the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. But on Thursday the president described a new vision of a wall more closely resembling the fencing already up in places like South Texas, where, at least in some cases, fences hug residents’ back yards.
“You need transparency,” Trump said. “In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.”
Trump won the support of conservative groups who liked his tough campaign talk on immigration. Some clearly aren’t happy with his changing course on a border wall.
“We don’t have the rule of law when it comes to immigration,” Stephen Steinlight, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington told the Times. “It doesn’t exist. There’s immigration anarchy.”
His new position, however, is likely to go over better with some of the president’s prominent supporters in Texas, who think more border walls aren’t the answer on border security. They include Dennis Nixon, a well-known Laredo banking executive who had this to say to me recently about a border wall: “No serious person thinks you can build a wall from El Paso to Brownsville with any kind of reasonable expectation it will be successful.”
Nixon was the Texas finance chair for the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. Among other solutions, he advocates cleaning up dense vegetation along the Rio Grande so that border enforcement agents gain better access and visibility.
A final footnote on why Trump said a border wall needs openings, and we’ll leave it there.
“As horrible as it sounds,” Trump said, “when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.”