Former White House chief of staff John Kelly says that building a border wall across the full length of the southern border would be a "waste of money."
In a wide-ranging, news-making question-and-answer session at Duke University on Wednesday evening, Kelly reportedly said that, while there are areas where a border wall would be effective, “We don’t need a wall from sea to shining sea.”
Kelly reportedly also broke with President Trump’s characterization of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. “They’re overwhelmingly not criminals,” Kelly said. “They’re people coming up here for economic purposes. I don’t blame them for that.”
A retired four-star general who served as Trump’s Homeland Security secretary before becoming chief of staff, Kelly left the White House at the end of December. At the time, the federal government was in the middle of a partial shutdown that stretched to 35 days in a fight over the president’s demands for border wall funding.
In January, as he announced an agreement to end the shutdown, President Trump said: “We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea. We never did. We never proposed that. We never wanted that, because we have barriers at the border where natural structures are as good as anything that we can build.”
Fact-checkers noted that Trump has at various times called for a concrete wall, though he has long said that it need not stretch for 2,000 miles because of natural barriers that exist along the border. The administration’s current plan, including Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, calls for erecting 234 miles of barriers.