Secretary of Homeland Security does not rule out border wall in Big Bend National Park

by John Waters, Publisher

This morning members of the United States House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee had the opportunity to ask Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly his views on immigration and border security.

Representative Will Hurd (R-TX-23) told Kelly, “We need to stop talking about getting in the wall-making business and get in the border security business. We talk about physical borders, I have 820-miles of border with Mexico, I have more border than any member of Congress.”

Hurd then showed Kelly a picture of Lake Amistad and asked Kelly if he thought the lake was a physical barrier.

Kelly responded, “In my view, it is a physical barrier, but it is easily crossed unless we patrol it.”

Hurd said building a wall in the middle of the lake would be a damn and money could be better spent on increasing personnel. “I would like for the money that would be potentially go to building a wall in the middle of the lake go to hiring more people to help with national security collection in Mexico to give your folks additional intelligence to stop the problem before it gets to our border.”

Hurd then showed Kelly a photo of the Pecos River and asked if he thought that was a physical barrier.

“That is a physical barrier to movement, yes, Congressman,” Kelly responded.

Hurd then showed Kelly his last photograph, stating it is “One of my favorite places in the 23rd District of Texas: the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park south of Terlingua. That looks like two or three physical barriers along the international boundary; would you agree with that, Secretary?”

Kelly concurred: “That is a physical barrier to movement.”

“Would there be any value of building a wall somewhere in that?” Hurd pressed.

Kelly dodged the question stating, “Well not to be cute, I would like to talk to the people who patrol that region, it clearly won’t be down the middle of a river. But they may tell me there is flow of individuals that move through all of those pictures that there may be need for some physical barrier.”

Kelly reiterated what he had Hurd have discussed previously by phone: “I look forward to getting down there and takin’ a look and kickin’ the tires and talkin’ to people.”

Hurd offered to take Kelly to the region stating “I’d love to take you down there and one of the things people are going to tell you is they need horses in order to do pursuit.”

“If they need horses there and that’s what they need, then we will look at that for sure,” conceded Kelly.

Kelley said he would work closely with local officials on any border barriers.

At the opening of the committee hearing, Chairman Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) said of President Trump’s executive order on travel restrictions, “The rollout of this executive order has been problematic. It has caused confusion here in Congress, across the country, and around the world. It caused real problems for lawful Green Card holders in air, when the order was signed.”

Kelly took responsibility stating, “Is all on me; I should have delayed it a bit.”

Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2) took the hearing as an opportunity to express his views on the appointment of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council, saying he is “disgusted and appalled,” and labeled Bannon a “white supremacist.”

The following are images of the international border between Texas and Mexico, the Rio Grande as it flows through Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park (Gazette file photos by Marlys Hersey). 

About to emerge from the canyon
Looking back (upstream) at another boat coming out of the Rock Slide
Going into Santa Elena Canyon
The group getting back into the boats after lunch
Alpine resident Annie Wilson agog at the cliffs near the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon

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