President Donald Trump’s choose for lawyer normal, William Barr, as soon as questioned the worth of a wall alongside the Mexican border much like the one the president has advocated, describing the concept as “overkill.”

Barr was lawyer normal underneath President George H.W. Bush when he was requested in a Feb. 24, 1992, interview whether or not he supported a proposal from Republican presidential challenger Pat Buchanan to erect a barrier of ditches and fences alongside the border to cease unlawful immigration.

“I do not suppose it’s a necessity. I feel that is overkill to place a barrier from one facet of the border to the opposite,” Barr replied on “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS. “Actually, the issue with unlawful immigration throughout the border is absolutely confined to main metropolitan areas. Unlawful immigrants don’t cross in the course of the desert and stroll a whole bunch of miles,” as an alternative selecting extra “sure specified routes.”

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These routes via extra populated areas have since largely been closed off, pushing migrants to riskier desert routes.

Different public statements by Barr from his tenure as lawyer normal and throughout the final 12 months recommend a hardened immigration strategy extra consistent with the broader safety measures Trump and his advisers have mentioned.

A Justice Division spokeswoman declined to touch upon whether or not Barr’s views on a wall have modified, however pointed to different feedback from his tenure through which he described fences as efficient in stopping medication and unlawful immigration. As lawyer normal, he additionally introduced the hiring of extra brokers to patrol the border and promoted upgraded fencing and investments in sensors and different know-how.

Barr’s positions on immigration are important due to the Justice Division’s position in defending and imposing administration insurance policies and since border safety has been a high precedence of Trump’s White Home. Whereas the Justice Division right now prosecutes individuals who cross the border illegally and defends the administration’s insurance policies, it was extra immediately concerned in immigration enforcement throughout Barr’s earlier tenure as lawyer normal — 1991 to 1993 — as a result of it included the Immigration and Naturalization Service. That company was dissolved and its tasks largely folded into the Division of Homeland Safety following the 9/11 assaults.

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Barr’s previous feedback on the effectiveness of a wall mirror a nuance usually lacking from Trump’s rhetoric, who made the development of a “large stunning wall” of concrete and metal a centerpiece of his marketing campaign, and who has extra not too long ago cited a scarcity of extra funding for it as the rationale for partially shutting down the federal government.

The president chosen Barr to exchange Jeff Classes as lawyer normal after forcing Classes out over Trump’s lingering outrage for his recusal from the Russia investigation. A transcript of the PBS interview was included in hundreds of pages of paperwork Barr produced to the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee forward of a affirmation listening to.

Trump’s ambition for a wall has given approach to a extra modest actuality, with the president now describing the barrier as “artistically designed metal slats” and saying he does not care what folks name it.

His former chief of workers John Kelly instructed The Los Angeles Occasions in an interview printed Sunday that Trump had deserted the notion of “a strong concrete wall early on within the administration.”

Trump appeared to answer Kelly with a tweet Monday morning saying “an all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED.”

Regardless of the terminology, border safety stays the central sticking level within the partial authorities shutdown. Trump is searching for $5 billion for a wall. Newly empowered congressional Democrats have resisted the demand in favor of enhanced know-how.

Within the 1992 interview with PBS host Jim Lehrer, Barr mentioned the Justice Division was taking steps to manage unlawful immigration and that “there are some boundaries which have lowered violence and made it simpler to interdict the aliens crossing.”

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However he expressed ambivalence about an expansive wall, saying, “They often attempt to go up via sure specified routes and, the truth is, we’re solely speaking a few 200-mile space the place there’s considerable crossings, unlawful crossings, and in reality, 40 to 50 p.c of the unlawful crossings in the USA happen on a 14-mile stretch south of San Diego.”

Even when Barr doesn’t embrace a sprawling border wall, there are different indications his immigration views will not depart a lot from the aggressive stance of the White Home and of Classes, whose Justice Division defended a journey ban that blocked arrivals from some Muslim-majority nations and backed a since-abandoned enforcement coverage that separated kids from mother and father on the border.

Barr defended the legality of Trump’s journey ban in a February 1, 2017, Washington Put up opinion piece, saying complaints that it was discriminatory have been “baseless” since solely a handful of nations have been singled out and the criterion for his or her inclusion “was not that they have been Muslim however that the chance of terrorist infiltration from these nations is particularly excessive.” He and different current Republican attorneys normal praised Classes in a separate op-ed for “attacking the rampant illegality that riddled our immigration system.”


This story corrects the date of Barr’s Washington Put up opinion piece to February 1, 2017, not January 2017.


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