IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN: Trump to Sign Executive Order Suspending Work Visas to Protect American Jobs

WASHINGTON — Administration officials announced Monday that President Donald Trump will sign an executive order suspending the issuance of certain temporary worker visas through the end of 2020, in an effort to prioritize American workers and slow down immigration.

The order applies to H-1B visas, H-2B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas and certain J-1 visas, which relate to skilled and seasonal workers and spouses of H-1B visa holders.

The restrictions are set to remain in place for the rest of the calendar year and administration officials say they be extended beyond the end of the year.

The move comes in response to complaints that American born workers should be prioritized when it comes to jobs, especially in light of the economic downturn caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

A senior administration official said the visa restrictions would free up more than half a million jobs for American workers. The order will also close loopholes that allow companies to outsource labor to foreign workers, the official said.

Two months ago the president signed an initial executive order which temporarily suspended the issuance of new green cards, citing the need to protect American jobs amid widespread unemployment caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.

“I think it’s going to make a lot of people very happy,” Trump said of the order Sunday during an interview with Fox News. “And it’s common sense, I mean, to be honest with you. It’s common sense.”

SWINGING BACK: Trump Vows To Appoint New Conservative Justices in Wake of Recent SCOTUS Rulings

WASHINGTON — Shaken by a series of recent Supreme Court rulings, President Donald Trump has turned his attention toward appointing fresh conservative nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Based on decisions being rendered now, this list is more important than ever before,” the president, wrote in a Twitter post.

Blasting the Supreme Court’s recent decision that gay and transgender workers are protected under federal employment law and a second blocking his request to end DACA, the president said more conservative Justices are needed in order to protect the constitution, specifically, he said, the Second Amendment.

“We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else” he wrote. “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”

“If given the opportunity, I will only choose from this list, as in the past, a Conservative Supreme Court Justice,” he continued. “Based on decisions being rendered now, this list is more important than ever before (Second Amendment, Right to Life, Religous Liberty, etc.) – VOTE 2020!”

So far in his administration, President Trump has made two appointments to the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. In Thursday’s ruling, both Justices sided with him in their ruling.

PELOSI: Violating America’s immigration laws ‘no reason’ for deportation

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said violating America’s immigration laws is not reason for deportation.

The California Democrat made the comments at a “Speaker of the House” event in New York while referencing a phone call she had with President Donald Trump. The president later delayed much publicized plans to begin mass deportations after the pair spoke.

“So when I spoke to the president, I said ‘Look, I’m a mom, I have five kids, …nine grandchildren, and children are scared,” Pelosi said. “‘You’re scaring the children of America. Not just those families, but their neighbors and their communities. You’re scaring the children.’”

“I said a violation of status is not a reason for deportation, that’s just not so,” Pelosi continued. “If you have some case you want to make about somebody who’s been accused… that has nothing to do with violation of status, because then we’re talking about over 10 million people who may be subjected to this treatment, and what we need there is comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”

“When I saw the president was going to have these raids, it’s so appalling, it’s outside the realm of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors and splitting up families in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border,” Pelosi added. “We have legislation to go forward to address those needs. But in terms of interior enforcement, what’s the point?”

The president took a great deal of heat from his Republican base after deciding to delay deportations as he works to come to a compromise with Democrats on illegal immigration.

Securing the nation’s border was a key topic of his 2016 presidential election. The matter is expected to remain the focus of his 2020 bid for re-election.

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WIN FOR THE BORDER: 9th Circuit Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Trump on Asylum Seekers

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s order that asylum seekers must wait in Mexico for immigration court hearings while the policy is challenged in court.

The ruling was declared a victory by the Trump administration in its ongoing battle to secure the United States’ southern border.

The surprise move by the appeal’s court reversed a decision by a San Francisco judge who previously ruled that asylum seekers could not be returned to Mexico as the challenged is adjudicated. The court has a prominent history of ruling against the president on such matters.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union had argued that returning asylum seekers to Mexico while the case is adjudicated put them at unnecessary risk. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies had each sued the Trump administration over the policy, calling the president’s order “unconstitutional”.

“Asylum seekers are being put at serious risk of harm every day that the forced return policy continues,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said of the policy.

However, in its ruling, the three-judge appeals court panel cited the Mexican government’s stance rejecting the argument that asylum seekers were at risk. The “likelihood of harm is reduced somewhat by the Mexican government’s commitment to honor its international law obligations and to grant humanitarian status and work permits to individuals returned under the (Migrant Protection Protocols)” the court said.

The administration has said it plans to rapidly expand the policy across the border as a result of the court’s ruling.

The U.S. has returned 3,267 Central American asylum seekers to date, Mexico’s immigration agency said Monday.

Calls for comment to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies were not immediately returned.

Republican National Convention: Day Four

TICK TOCK: Trump vows ‘harsh measures’ if Dems won’t act on border

WASHINGTON — A fed up President Donald Trump on Tuesday came out swinging against Democrats who continue to turn a blind eye to immigration loopholes.

“Democrats in Congress must vote to close the terrible loopholes at the Southern Border. If not, harsh measures will have to be taken!” the president tweeted.

The president’s comments were in response to congressional Democrats who continue to push back on his demands for emergency funds earmarked toward preventing illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. through the Mexican border.

“So you create chaos, and then ask for more money?” Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, told Politico, referring to the president’s request for emergency funding.

In an appearance on “Fox & Friends” Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway blasted Dems for their refusal to cooperate in helping to secure the nation’s border.

“They have to stop pretending they want to reform the immigration laws,” Conway said. “If they’re serious about immigration reform they should come to the table and fix something.”

Thus far, Democrats are still refusing to cooperate.

“Not that we’re trying to validate or not validate [Trump’s claims], there are a lot of people there at the border,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D)-Texas, told Politico. “I don’t call it a security crisis, I call it a humanitarian crisis. So, the question is how do we get to address that?”

Trump’s efforts to secure the nation’s border has been an ongoing battle throughout his administration. The fight against illegal immigration was a center point of his 2016 election campaign. The issue is expected to remain the focus of his 2020 bid for reelection.

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TRUMP TO DEMS: ‘No wall, no deal’

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday said he will not accept a deal to avoid another government shutdown unless funding to build a border wall between the southern U.S. border and Mexico is approved.

“No. Because if there’s no wall, it doesn’t work,” Trump told reporters, in response to continued Democratic opposition to the wall.

The president’s comments follow those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) who said earlier Thursday that Democrats remain adamantly opposed to the wall’s funding or construction.

“There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,” Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill. “However, if they have some suggestions about certain localities where technology, some infrastructure [is appropriate] … that’s part of the negotiation.”

Trump had previously signaled that he may be open to calling structures along the border “steel slats” or a “barrier,” but returned Thursday to his demands of calling it a wall.

“Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!” he tweeted.

The president also took to Twitter to announce that more US troops are being brought in to protect the country’s southern border.

“More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans, into our Country,” Trump wrote.

The president agreed to reopen the federal government last Friday amid weeks of shutdown after reaching a tentative 3-week agreement with Democrats to negotiate border security funding.

He vowed to use his presidential power to declare a national emergency and shut the government back down again if the funds are not approved within that period of time.

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NO WIN: Senate rejects rival Dem, GOP plans for reopening government

WASHINGTON (AP) — A splintered Senate swatted down competing Democratic and Republican plans for ending the 34-day partial government shutdown on Thursday, leaving President Donald Trump and Congress with no obvious formula for halting the longest-ever closure of federal agencies and the damage it is inflicting around the country.

In an embarrassment to Trump that could weaken his position whenever negotiations get serious, the Democratic proposal got two more votes than the GOP plan. There were six Republican defectors, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who’s clashed periodically with the president.

There were faint signs that lawmakers on both sides were looking for ways to resolve their vitriolic stalemate. Moments after the votes, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., went to the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

But Thursday was mostly a day for both parties, in conflicting ways, to show sympathy for unpaid federal workers while yielding no ground in their fight over Trump’s demand to build a border wall with Mexico.

The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he’s demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he’d long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.

Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to 800,000 beleaguered government workers who are a day from going unpaid for a second consecutive pay period.

Flustered lawmakers said the results could be a reality check that would prod the start of talks. Throughout, the two sides have issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked negotiations from even starting: Trump has refused to reopen government until Congress gives him the wall money, and congressional Democrats have rejected bargaining until he reopens government.

Thursday’s votes could “teach us that the leaders are going to have to get together and figure out how to resolve this,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate GOP leader. He added, “One way or another we’ve got to get out of this. This is no win for anybody.”

For now, partisan potshots flowed freely.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of a “let them eat cake kind of attitude” after he said on television that he didn’t understand why unpaid civil servants were resorting to homeless shelters for food. Even as Pelosi offered to meet the president “anytime,” Trump stood firm, tweeting, “Without a Wall it all doesn’t work…. We will not Cave!” and no meetings were scheduled.

As the Senate debated the two dueling proposals, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Democratic plan would let that party’s lawmakers “make political points and nothing else” because Trump wouldn’t sign it. He called Pelosi’s stance “unreasonable” and said, “Senate Democrats are not obligated to go down with her ship.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized the GOP plan for endorsing Trump’s proposal to keep the government closed until he got what he wants.

“A vote for the president’s plan is an endorsement of government by extortion,” Schumer said. “If we let him do it today, he’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.′

Still smarting from its clash with Pelosi over the State of the Union, the White House closely monitored the Senate votes and Trump spoke with lawmakers throughout the day. He was waiting to see if many Democrats crossed over to back his plan, but West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin proved to be the only one.

Even so, there were suggestions of movement.

Vice President Mike Pence attended a lunch with GOP senators before the vote and heard from lawmakers eager for the standoff to end, participants said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said their message to Pence was “Find a way forward.”

In consultation with their Senate counterparts, House Democrats were preparing a new border security package they planned to roll out Friday. Despite their pledge to not negotiate until agencies reopened, their forthcoming proposal was widely seen as a counteroffer to Trump. Pelosi expressed “some optimism that things could break loose pretty soon” in a closed-door meeting with other Democrats Wednesday evening, said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.

The Democratic package was expected to include $5.7 billion, the same amount Trump wants for his wall, but use it instead for fencing, technology, personnel and other measures. In a plan the rejected Senate GOP plan mirrored, Trump on Saturday proposed to reopen government if he got his wall money. He also proposed to revamp immigration laws, including new restrictions on Central American minors seeking asylum in the U.S. and temporary protections for immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.

In another sign of hope, Thursday’s vote on the Democratic plan represented movement by McConnell. For weeks, he’d refused to allow a Senate vote on anything Trump wouldn’t sign and has let Trump and Democrats try reaching an accord. McConnell has a history of helping resolve past partisan standoffs, and his agreement to allow Thursday’s vote was seen by some as a sign he would become more forcefully engaged.

With the impacts of the shutdown becoming increasingly painful, however, lawmakers on both sides were trumpeting their willingness to compromise in the battle over border security and immigration issues, such as protection against deportation for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

“We can work this out,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

At a panel discussion held by House Democrats on the effects of the shutdown, union leaders and former Homeland Security officials said they worried about the long-term effects. “I fear we are rolling the dice,” said Tim Manning, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official. “We will be lucky to get everybody back on the job without a crisis to respond to.”

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Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram contributed to the contents of this report.

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REPORT: Pelosi cancels Afghanistan trip, citing Trump ‘leak’

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying President Donald Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip.

It was the latest twist in what has become a Washington game of brinkmanship between Pelosi and Trump, playing out against the stalled negotiations over how to end the partial government shutdown.

Earlier in the week, Pelosi had asked Trump to reschedule his Jan. 29 State of the Union address, citing security issues at a time when the Homeland Security Department and other agencies remain unfunded.

Trump responded by canceling the military plane that was to have carried Pelosi and a congressional delegation to Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed troop visit. Trump suggested she travel by commercial plane instead.

Trump had belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone State of the Union address.

On Friday, Pelosi announced that her plan to travel by commercial plane had been “leaked” by the White House.

Spokesman Drew Hammill said Pelosi and accompanying lawmakers were prepared to take a commercial flight but canceled after the State Department warned that publicity over the visit had “significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip.”

The White House said it had leaked nothing that would cause a security risk.

The political tit-for-tat between Trump and Pelosi laid bare how the government-wide crisis has devolved into an intensely pointed clash between two leaders determined to prevail. It took place as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and Washington’s routine protocols — a president’s speech to Congress, a lawmaker’s official trip — become collateral damage.

Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, traveling to a combat region — is very rare.

Hammill said the speaker planned to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels to thank service members and obtain briefings on national security and intelligence “from those on the front lines.” He noted Trump had traveled to Iraq during the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, and said a Republican-led congressional trip also had taken place.

Trump’s trip to Iraq after Christmas was not disclosed in advance for security reasons.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plans.

“I think the president’s decision to disclose a trip the speaker’s making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way,” Schiff said.

Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” He called Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political” but said Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate.”

There have been few signs of progress in shutdown negotiations. On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed to the Capitol late in the day for a meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the State Department instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted Pelosi to stay in Washington before Tuesday, a deadline to prepare the next round of paychecks for federal workers.

The White House also canceled plans for a presidential delegation to travel to an economic forum in Switzerland next week, citing the shutdown. And they said future congressional trips would be postponed until the shutdown is resolved, though it was not immediately clear if any such travel — which often is not disclosed in advance — was coming up.

Trump has still not said how he will handle Pelosi’s attempt to have him postpone his State of the Union address until the government is reopened so workers can be paid for providing security for the grand Washington tradition.

Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday: “Let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t.”

Pelosi reiterated she is willing to negotiate money for border security once the government is reopened, but she said Democrats remain opposed to Trump’s long-promised wall.

The shutdown, the longest ever, entered its 28th day on Friday. The previous longest was 21 days in 1995-96, under President Bill Clinton.

In a notice to staff, the State Department said it can pay most of its employees beginning Sunday or Monday for their next pay period. They will not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began until the situation is resolved, said the notice.

The new White House travel ban did not extend to the first family.

About two hours after Trump grounded Pelosi and her delegation, an Air Force-modified Boeing 757 took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington with the call sign “Executive One Foxtrot,” reserved for the first family when the president is not traveling with them. It landed just before 7 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport, less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the president’s private club.

A White House spokesperson did not answer questions about the flight.

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Associated Press writers Jon Lemire, Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to the contents of this report.

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CRISIS AT THE BORDER: Trump to address nation as government shutdown heads into third week

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will address the nation Tuesday evening regarding the ongoing government shutdown and the Democrat’s refusal to fund a border wall between the United States and Mexico, Trump tweeted Monday.

“I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border,” the president wrote.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders also announced Monday that the president will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to “meet with those on the frontlines” in the ongoing battle to secure America’s southern border.

The announcement comes as a government shutdown orchestrated by Trump in response to Democrat’s refusal to fund a $5 billion border wall between the U.S. and Mexico enters its third week.

President Trump attempted to work with Democrats last week by offering the use of steel instead of concrete to fund the project after Democratic leaders slammed the use of concrete as “ineffective”.

They “don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel,” the president said, yet Democrats still refused to cooperate, calling the use of any type of wall to keep illegal aliens from entering the U.S “immoral”.

Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency in order to build the wall without congressional approval, if necessary, a move that Democrats claim would be illegal.

The televised address to the nation is scheduled to broadcast on Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. EST.

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REPORT: Trump considering declaring national emergency in an effort to secure wall funding

WASHINGTON (ABC) — President Donald Trump said Friday he is considering declaring a national emergency to help pay for his long-desired border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president, when asked by ABC News’ senior national correspondent Terry Moran during a press conference, acknowledged that he would consider declaring a national emergency to help get funds to build the wall “for the security of our country”.

Trump did not elaborate on the details of such a process.

Earlier Friday, multiple sources familiar with the ongoing discussion told ABC News that options could include reprogramming funds from the Department of Defense and elsewhere – a move which would circumvent Congress.

Sources tell ABC News the discussions are still on the “working level” adding that there’s a range of legal mechanisms that are being considered before such a decision is announced.

The discussions have intensified as the president is now 14 days into a partial government shutdown, facing newly empowered House Democrats who are refusing to budge issue of wall funding. “We are not doing a wall,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, calling the proposed structure an “immorality.”

The administration is holding meetings Friday, through the weekend and into next week, to continue discussions on next steps, according to officials.

It was not immediately clear who would be part of those meetings.

On Friday, the president said he had had a “productive” and “very, very good meeting” after talks with top Democrats and other congressional leaders at the White House in an effort to end the partial government shutdown now heading into the third week. Just minutes earlier, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters outside the White House that Trump told lawmakers in their nearly hour and a half meeting that he is prepared to keep the government closed “for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the meeting “contentious.”

One administration official described the current executive action under consideration as clearing the way for the construction of roughly 115 miles of new border wall strictly on land owned by DoD, which would make up roughly 5 percent of the more than 2,000-mile border.
There is also a good chance the president would face legal challenges.

This is not the first time the president has suggested using the military to build the wall, nor is it the first time he has suggested the situation amounts to a national emergency.

In December he tweeted he could use the military to build the wall if Democrats didn’t work with him.

Dec 11 tweet: “If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall.

That same day he told Congressional leaders in the oval office “this is a national emergency.”

A previous DOD statement has mentioned the use of the Title 10 U.S. code as a way in which the military could construct a wall.

The relevant section of that code reads: “In the event of a declaration of war or the declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) that requires use of the armed forces, the Secretary of Defense…may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces.”

However, sources insist such a declaration would only be a partial solution and wouldn’t result in Trump compromising with Democrats on their series of funding bills aimed at ending the current government shutdown that includes no money allocated for a wall.

Some experts say the strategy may face an uphill battle.

“I don’t think that this is a real possibility given the restrictions already in place on how money can and cannot be used,” Todd Harrison a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies told ABC News. “It is against the law to use money for purposes other than it was appropriated without getting prior approval from Congress. I don’t think declaring a national emergency would make a difference in this case, so I don’t think their theory holds much water. Moreover, the president is likely to meet stiff resistance from defense hawks within his own party if he tries to use billions of dollars of military funding for something other than military purposes.”

A House Democratic aide said it would be “completely unacceptable” for Trump to use national emergency authority to try and build the wall using military funds, and that Democrats would likely challenge the administration’s actions in court.

“If President Trump tries to use such thin legal authority to build his wall, Democrats will challenge him in court,” said Evan Hollander, a spokesman for House Appropriations chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. “The president’s authority in this area is intended for wars and genuine national emergencies. Asserting this authority to build a wasteful wall is legally dubious and would likely invite a court challenge.”

A senior congressional official told ABC News that Pentagon lawyers informed Congress in 2018 that the president didn’t have the legal authority to use military money to build the wall. However, those conversations did not include discussions of declaring a national emergency, the official said.

A former member of the president’s inner circle believes the move is possible.

“The President has some limited authority to direct the Department of Defense to build portions of the barrier along the southern border,” Tom Bossert, Trump’s former Homeland Security adviser and current ABC News contributor said. “Depending on what approach he takes, every option available to him comes with some structural constraints and will be met with congressional opposition and legal action — even the very rare emergency authority that has garnered debate this week. Unless Congress acts, there is seemingly a significant limit to the amount of wall Department of Defense could build.”

The White House did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment for this story.

A Department of Defense spokesperson said: “The Department of Defense is reviewing available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier construction.”

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