Homeland Security chief backtracks on splitting families

In his testimony, Kelly also credited Trump's executive orders for what he said was a decline in undocumented immigrants detained at the Mexican border last month - less than 17,000 apprehensions in March, he said, which is the lowest since 2000.

President Donald Trump has vowed to build a physical wall along the border with Mexico from the early days of his presidential campaign.

Later in the hearing, Kelly explored other reasons why he thinks that fewer people are crossing the southwest border into the US, which include improving economic conditions in migrants' home countries and rising prices charged by coyotes helping to smuggle people across the border.

"We're not going to build a wall ... where it doesn't make sense".

He said he wasn't sure what such a project would cost, or what it would look like.

Kelly said two-thirds of a Homeland Security funding request, or about $1 billion, will be dedicated to "initial wall investment" in preparing the barrier. In a terse exchange with Harris, Kelly suggested his takeover of DHS and President Donald Trump's approach to immigration enforcement nearly instantly improved the morale issue within the department.

The ideas range from the relatively practical, like covering the wall with solar panels to power Border Patrol stations and crossing infrastructure, to more fanciful ideas. Additionally, the Trump administration will have to seize privately owned land to build the wall, which is expected to prompt years of costly lawsuits. One even proposed tacking onto a $218 billion spending bill a prohibition against using state funds on Trump's border wall.

"I was very angry, I just kept saying, how can they do that?"

Fresh data on illegal migrants from Mexico entering the United States showed that the number of arrests made in March was the lowest in 17 years, while the overall illegal movement declined by about 71% since December 2016.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Kelly to clarify "interpretations" of the wall.

"We've seen an absolutely fantastic drop in the number of migrants coming out of Central America taking that terribly unsafe route from Central America into the United States", Kelly said. "But we'll do something across the Southwest border". Congress could enact another continuing resolution to fund the government through September, but defense-minded members and the military are urging a permanent deal.

Kelly said that the parts of the border that have a physical barrier now-roughly 650 miles built years ago-works well in those sectors to deter illegal immigrants and/or the transport of illegal drugs. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., agreed with Kelly, stating that Trump is the only person who does not realize a solid 2,000-mile wall is unlikely.

The agency, responding to questions from companies on a website for government contractors, said the Border Patrol would respond as needed if there is a hostile attack, but companies were responsible for security. "The wall, or physical barrier, something to secure our border".

  • Lila Blake