President Trump still wants to see a border wall get done, but it does not necessarily need to be part of the legislative fix Congress is working on for Dreamers, his top liaison to Capitol Hill said Tuesday.
Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, said Mr. Trump does believe a border barrier is critical to security, but “whether or not that is specifically part of a DACA package or another package, I’m not going to prejudge.”
Speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Short also said the White House will not seek a new legal framework for fighting the war on terror. Instead, he said, the 2001 declaration authorizing strikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban is broad enough to enable carrying out the war against the Islamic State in Syria, and other terrorists elsewhere.
“The president believes that the current authorization for the use of military force is sufficient for our needs right now. We’re not looking to change it,” Mr. Short said.
That marks dissonance with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who just last week said he would like to see an updated war framework come from the White House.
“What matters in my opinion is that we have one that respects the fight that we have in front of us, which is multi-content. I mean we’ve got ISIS in Libya. We’ve got ISIS in the Arabian Peninsula. We’ve got Central Asia. So we’ve got a lot of fights on our hands, that we have to engage in, in order to keep the American people safe,” he said.
On the border wall, Mr. Short said the president is not backing off his determination to see barriers erected along the U.S.-Mexico line, but said where that pops up in the legislative process remains to be seen.
Democrats have demanded quick passage of legislation known as the DREAM Act to grant a permanent legal status for the illegal immigrants who could face jeopardy in the future, now that Mr. Trump is phasing out the legally questionable Obama-era deportation amnesty known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The White House had said in recent days that Mr. Trump wanted to see Congress act, but also wanted to see border security measures be part of it.
Mr. Short’s comments Tuesday could signal that Mr. Trump won’t demand it be coupled with the DREAM Act, which would grant a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
“The president is committed to sticking by his commitment that a physical structure be put in place to help protect the American people. Whether or not that is specifically part of the DACA package or a different legislative package, I’m not going to prejudge. But he’s committed to making sure that wall is built,” Mr. Short said.
Democrats have said they’re open to some add-ons to the DREAM Act, including boosting technology and drug-interdiction efforts along the border, but have said they won’t allow border wall funding to be part of a final legislative package.
“It does not include a wall, no,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week.
The Trump administration has enough money to test eight wall prototypes later this year, but will need more money to begin construction of dozens of miles of new wall in Texas, which the president asked for in the 2018 budget.
On Tuesday, Homeland Security said it was waiving more than two dozen environmental laws to replace several miles of fencing in Calexico, California, that was approved in the 2017 spending process.
The goal is to upgrade old-style pedestrian fencing with the newer bollard-style fence that agents say gives them more visibility for what’s happening on the other side of the border.
“While the waiver eliminates DHS’s obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects,” the department said in a statement.
The Center for Biological Diversity is challenging the use of the fence waiver in court, and said Tuesday’s decision is “illegal and unconstitutional.”