A Border Patrol vehicle patrols the international border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

A Border Patrol vehicle patrols the international border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock.com

Trump Transition Sought Data for Building Border Walls

The Homeland Security Department provided cost estimates for constructing barriers on both the southern and northern borders.

The Trump transition team early last month approached the Homeland Security Department for a panoply of documents and cost data related to building walls at both the southern and northern U.S. borders.

As reported Tuesday by Reuters, President-elect Donald Trump’s staff, in a Dec. 5 meeting with DHS officials, also inquired about the department’s ability to expand immigrant detention and a National Guard aerial surveillance program. And it asked whether federal employees had “altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties” under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, the news service said.

DHS declined to comment, though an anonymous official confirmed the authenticity of a Customs and Border Protection document Reuters reviewed, suggesting that the incoming administration will adopt tougher measures to step up the removal of undocumented immigrants, such as using file information on undocumented immigrants to aid in deportation.

Costs for building new barriers at selected stretches were compiled by the CBP at $3.3 billion to cover 452 miles along the border of Canada and the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. On the Southwest border, building a more expensive anti-pedestrian barrier along 413 miles would cost about $11.7 billion, the report said.

Late last week, DHS released its third annual year-end statistics report reflecting “the department’s immigration enforcement efforts prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security,” it said. Nearly all numbers showed an increase in the removal of lawbreakers.

In fiscal 2016, DHS apprehended 530,250 individuals nationwide and conducted a total of 450,954 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol reported 415,816 apprehensions nationwide, compared with 337,117 in 2015; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 114, 434 individuals, compared with 125,211 in 2015.

“Although apprehensions by the [Border Patrol] in fiscal 2016 increased from fiscal 2015, they remain a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008,” the department said in a release.

Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations identified 274,821 inadmissible individuals at ports of entry, compared with 253,509 in fiscal 2015. ICE removed or returned 240,255 individuals in FY 2016, compared to 235,413 in FY 2015, DHS said.

“We continued to strengthen the federal government’s decades-long investment in border security,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “These investments have paid off. Apprehensions on the border in recent years – a strong indicator of total attempts to cross the border – are much lower than they used to be.”   

Johnson said, "Overall, 98 percent of all initial immigration enforcement actions and over 99 percent of all removals and returns in fiscal 2016 aligned with the immigration enforcement priorities that I established in November 2014. Significantly, an increasing percentage of those deported from the interior were convicted of serious crimes – over 90 percent in 2016 as compared to 51 percent in 2009.”