In this March 5, 2018, photo, boys look through an older section of the border structure from Mexicali, Mexico, alongside a newly-constructed, taller section...
Gregory Bull

White House struggles to defend Trump’s latest border policies

Updated

Congress’ recent spending package includes some funding for border security, but as NBC News noted after the measure became law, the money “can be used only to repair and build previously approved fencing,” It’s an important detail: Donald Trump may like to pretend he’s fulfilling his dream of constructing a giant border wall, but putting barriers where barriers already exist is hardly what he promised.

A recent Washington Post  report added: “The barriers authorized to be built under the act must be ‘operationally effective designs’ already deployed as of last March, meaning none of President Trump’s big, beautiful wall prototypes can be built.”

It therefore came as something of a surprise yesterday when Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters that repairing and building previously approved fencing should be perceived as new wall construction. “To us, it’s all new wall,” she argued, adding, “This is the Trump border wall.”

We’ve apparently reached the it-depends-on-the-meaning-of-“new” phrae of the debate.

At the same White House briefing, the cabinet secretary was asked why the administration is dispatching National Guard troops to the border now, since there’s no obvious need. It led to this exchange:

Q: I was wondering, I’m not sure I understand what the urgency for this is. It seemed like it ramped up, you know, just over the last several days and since the weekend, in fact. The House is not here; the Senate is not here. Why is this such an urgent priority right now for the President to sign?

NIELSEN: I think, you know, what I would say is that the numbers continue to increase. April, traditionally, is a month in which we see more folks crossing the border without a legal right to do so. So partly it’s modeling, partly it’s anticipating.

The Washington Post  reported soon after, “April is generally when illegal border crossings start to decline, according to data from Nielsen’s own department.”

It’s hard not to get the sense White House officials can’t say what they’re probably thinking: “This is all about politics because Trump saw something on Fox and wants to make his base happy.”

And speaking of the president, Trump bragged on Twitter this morning that illegal border crossings have reached a 46-year low – a development for which the president wants credit.

But doesn’t this detail make it more difficult to believe the Department of Homeland Security’s insistence that that there’s a “crisis” along the U.S./Mexico border that requires a wall and National Guard deployments?

Homeland Security and White House

White House struggles to defend Trump's latest border policies

Updated