By Julia Edwards Ainsley | WASHINGTON
In a wide-ranging request for documents and analysis, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security last month to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.
The team also asked about the department’s capacity for expanding immigrant detention and about an aerial surveillance program that was scaled back by the Obama administration but remains popular with immigration hardliners. And it asked whether federal workers have altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties.
The requests were made in a Dec. 5 meeting between Trump’s transition team and Department of Homeland Security officials, according to an internal agency memo reviewed by Reuters. The document offers a glimpse into the president-elect’s strategy for securing the U.S. borders and reversing polices put in place by the Obama administration.
Trump’s transition team did not comment in response to Reuters inquiries. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment.
In response to the transition team request, U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffers identified more than 400 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, and about the same distance along the U.S.-Canada border, where new fencing could be erected, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Reuters could not determine whether the Trump team is considering a northern border barrier. During the campaign, Trump pledged to build a wall and expand fencing on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border but said he sees no need to build a wall on the border with Canada.
One program the transition team asked about, according to the email summary, was Operation Phalanx, an aerial surveillance program that authorizes 1,200 Army National Guard airmen to monitor the southern border for drug trafficking and illegal migration.
The program once deployed 6,000 airmen under President George W. Bush but was downsized by Barack Obama, a move blasted by some conservatives who argue the surveillance is vital to border security.