Homeland Security chief hopes to complete border wall in two years

Homeland Security chief hopes to complete border wall in two years
© Greg Nash

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is setting his sights on completing President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall in two years, he said Wednesday.

"The wall will be built where it's needed first, and then it will be filled in. That's the way I look at it," Kelly told Fox News in an interview. "I really hope to have it done within the next two years."

In his first interview since being sworn in, Kelly called for the quick construction of the wall and laid out the need for a robust force of Border Patrol agents.

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"Any discussion about the protection of our southwest border involves discussion of physical barriers but also of technological sensors, things like that,” he said. “But it's a layered approach, and it’s got to be backed up by great men and women who are going to make sure that the wall is intact."  

Kelly, a retired Marine general, is the Cabinet member responsible for overseeing the construction of the wall and, consequently, the fulfillment of one of the Trump's highest-profile campaign promises.

In the interview, Kelly echoed Trump’s claim that construction on the wall would begin in months.

But how the government will fund the massive project is still uncertain. Independent estimates have put the cost in the tens of billions, and Trump has been steadfast in his assertion that Mexico will ultimately pick up the tab, despite repeated refusals to do so by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently floated the idea of a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to recoup the cost.

Kelly dismissed the challenge of paying for the wall, voicing confidence that funding is soon to come.

“I think the funding will come relatively quickly and like I said, we will build it where it's needed first as identified by the men and women who work the border," he said.

Kelly also defended the president’s executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S. and suspending the country’s refugee resettlement program, suggesting that protests were unjustified.

"Mr. Trump is not loved by everyone in America, and I think this very rapid succession of decisions, I don't think the American public is really all that used to people making decisions,” Kelly said. “I really don't think they're used to people that say things on the campaign trail actually turning them into action."