Past Features

January 27, 2017

Trump orders construction
of border "wall"
It doesn't have to be a wall, so long as it does the job

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The Atlantic -- January 25
The Many Unanswered Questions About Trump's Border Wall
   Wednesday's executive order affirms the president's intention to construct a barrier, but it doesn't say how, for what cost, or what it might look like.
    President Trump's executive order Wednesday, mandating the construction of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, is a strange milestone --- the validation of the central proposal of his campaign, one that has been roundly dismissed by experts as pointless, ineffective, and wildly expensive.
    But while Trump can achieve much by simple executive orders, the order on the wall offers little in the way of clarity. Wednesday's order is really just a set of instructions for Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. The American public still doesn't know how big the wall will be, when it will be built, or how it will be paid for --- to pick only the most glaring questions.
    So far this is clear enough. At times during the campaign, Trump supporters suggested that rather than build an actual physical barrier, he might create a “virtual” wall, or some sort of digital-surveillance mechanism. The order declares a policy that it's a physical barrier, though that could change. But as the order itself mentions, this is ostensibly already the law of the land, under the Secure Fence Act of 2006. However, an alteration to that law a year later gave the Department of Homeland Security discretion to not build the fence in places where it deemed in unnecessary.

Glenn Spencer -- American Border Patrol
Pesky problem of measuring operational control
   President Trump's executive order does not mandate a solid wall --- "(e) 'Wall' shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier."
    It does invoke the Secure Fence Act as its legal authority to move forward.
    The Secure Fence Act was amended by to give discretion over what kind of fence to build to the Secretary of Homeland Security --- so long as whatever is done achieves operational control over the border.
    The executive order signed by President Trump gives DHS secretary 180 days to "Produce a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border... to obtain and maintain complete operational control of the southern border."
    Trump's executive order defines operational control as follows:
    (h) "Operational control" shall mean the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.
    I ask: How is the Secretary of Homeland Security going to do his job of obtaining and maintaining operational control without being able to measure it?
    That pesky problem of measuring operational control is back.