Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, joined The Daily Signal Podcast at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year to detail progress on President Donald Trump’s wall on the US border with Mexico. Read the interview transcript that was edited lightly, posted below, or listen to the podcast:
Plus: Andy Ngo, a journalist who was attacked by Antifa last June, joined the podcast to reflect on socialism versus the American dream. We also cover these stories:
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Rachel del Guidice: We joined today in The Daily Signal Podcast by Chad Wolf. He is the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Chad, thank you very much for being with us today.
Chad Wolf: I appreciate it. Thank you for accepting me.
Del Guidice: So Chief Rodney Scott, who works at the U.S. Border Patrol, he recently announced that 126 border miles have been completed. There are 213 miles under construction and 414 miles in pre-construction. Can you tell us about the landmarks you’ve reached?
Wolf: Yes, this is very interesting. At the end of this calendar year we hope to build 450 miles. Oh, I see [a] new wall system, border wall system. That’s a new capability for Border Patrol agents that they have never had before.
So we replaced 6-8, 8-foot-high mat landing mats in the 1970s with bollard fences 8 to 30 feet high. But it’s not just physical infrastructure, it’s cameras, roads, lighting, fiber optic cables. This is a whole border wall system that gives them capabilities they have never had before.
And again, when I go to the border and I talk to the Border Patrol agent, the first thing I ask them is, “What do you need to secure the border?” This is an effective parapet system that is the first thing they conveyed to me.
Del Guidice: Can you tell us a little about all the work that happened? [into] reach that landmark? You are all busy making this happen. Can you take a peek at everything that goes into this whole project?
Wolf: Certain. Starting with our operator. So the conditions under which the border wall system will be placed along the southwest border. In what way? What is the height, what are the features? It all starts with our operator.
So CBP, Customs and Border Protection, take operators, take their input, put it in what we call our Border Security Improvement Plan, our BSIP. We share with Congress and then we fund it.
We work with Congress to fund it and I think what is really extraordinary from the President [Donald] Trump is, because Congress will not fund it or choose to fund it in very small slices, he uses the authority given by Congress to seek additional funding.
So we have about $ 15 billion today that we continue to build border wall funding. This will cover more than 700 miles, as I mentioned, [we] hope to have 450 [miles] done at the end of this calendar year and we will continue to build and continue to work with Congress and others to ensure that the capability and the system is where it must be along the southwestern boarding house.
Del Guidce: On your way to the border as well as across the country and all the work you do, are there certain stories or events that really capture the severity of the situation and why do we need to work on our southern border?
Wolf: Yes. I was in Tucson at the distance of one hundred miles that we put, I’m sure it was in January, and we were in the area that we replaced with what we called the Normandy barrier, it was the vehicle barrier.
This is basically X, about 4 and a half feet high. You can jump over it, you can do it, you do it very easily. We replaced that with a 30 foot high milestone wall.
I was talking to the head there and asked what kind of traffic … came. And that is one of their busiest areas because it’s right across the river. The river there is not too big. And they say that individuals will come in droves.
What will require them to do is to surge Border Patrol agents there. And as they do … the enemy will do that for some reason and then they will sneak up on other people further ahead.
So we want to make sure we can make sure we get a Border Patrol agent where they need to be. We install physical infrastructure to channel them to certain places that are easier to patrol, easier to capture people. And that story really touched me.
… I’m sure we can show you some photos, when you see a 4 foot high wall and then 30 feet high, that is impedance and rejection.
So many people talk to me about how the wall can be defeated, and I disagree, even though this wall is very difficult to defeat. This is all about impedance and rejection.
It might take someone seven minutes, eight minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes to reach above and around the wall. What allows us to do is [place] Border Patrol agents are waiting for him.
No more jumping over the fence in 30 seconds and then going into the interior of the country. We have a number of capabilities there that allow Border Patrol agents to wait for people who are trying to, once again, enter the country illegally.
Del Guidice: I was actually in Tucson about two weeks ago and we met with the Sheriff [Mark] Lamb, Pinal County, and he does a lot of work with drug trafficking there.
Something he mentioned when we talked to him was how often the Border Patrol was working, if an illegal immigrant was caught in the desert, they did not have enough food or water. They called 911, Border Patrol was called. And he said many Americans were unaware of the amount of humanitarian work being done by the Border Patrol. Can you talk a little about that?
Wolf: This is really interesting and, as you say, … humanity is what eventually became our Border Patrol agent. They make a number of rescues every day, saving individuals who make this very dangerous journey.
And we need to think about individuals who come across borders. They may be smuggled in from transnational criminal organizations that they pay thousands of dollars. They might travel very dangerous for weeks, maybe even a month.
They come to our southwestern border. Those people just gave it up. So you are in the middle of the desert, and most of the cases are in the wilderness, … most of the cases [are] not near the city. And you are not sure what to do. So you … get lost, run out of water, you do a number of things. And the Border Patrol is out there saving individuals, once again, with local law enforcement.
I would say that our local law enforcement, our sheriffs along the southwestern border are also at the forefront. It is their community that these people must face legally or illegally.
But Border Patrol agents rescue people who cross rivers every day, in the desert, running out of water and the like. So it was an extraordinary mission that they did.
[They’re] not only protecting borders, protecting communities along borders, and protecting American men and women, but also rescuing migrants who might not really know what they were registering when they came to the country.
Del Guidice: Regarding the topic of the humanitarian crisis, I know that you respond a lot to the problem of human trafficking like that. Could you talk a little about the Border Patrol’s response to human trafficking?
Wolf: Certain. What we saw last year were a number of incidents of human trafficking that continued to increase. And I think where this really made me go home [with] an operation that we found. Our ICE Homeland Security researchers found together with the Border Patrol what we call child recycling.
And these are individuals, again, south of the border, who will use a child to come to the country because, the way our law is written, if you come to the country with a child at that time, you are released into the interior of the country.
So what we see is someone who comes with a child, we will see that same child maybe a few weeks later with another adult claiming to be their parent. And then a few weeks later, the same child.
After a time we began to investigate and see this and that was the ring where they would enter and the child would be sent back to Central America, Mexico, and again, using it. So it was very, very annoying. Obviously, this is very, very dangerous for the child. And again, it exploits our immigration system.
So ICE, HSI [Homeland Security Investigations]Border Patrol, they face it every day. Human trafficking as a whole is a very big problem for this department. We released our first human trafficking strategy two months ago. We continue to see that and we continue to do more ICE Homeland Security Investigations. That’s what they do. They investigate human trafficking.
I will say some of the laws that we see throughout this country, especially in New York, [are] very unsettling when we talk about asylum policies or the lack of sharing information with DHS and it has an impact on criminal law enforcement such as human trafficking, where our law enforcement agents do not have the information they need to do their jobs. And that is very dangerous.
Del Guidice: All right, Secretary Wolf, thank you very much for joining us today on The Daily Signal Podcast.