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Homeland Security Chief Sets Timeline for Border Wall

(CBS NEWS) Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is setting a timeline for completing construction of President Trump’s southern border wall: 2019.

 “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 that aired Wednesday, predicting that construction could begin in a matter of months. “I really hope to have it done within the next two years.”

Kelly, who was traveling Wednesday along the U.S.-Mexican border in McAllen, Texas to meet with Department of Homeland Security workers, gave further details about the border plan, which he called a “layered approach.” 

“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.”  

He also proposed a “surge” in funding immigration courts along the border as one part of the DHS plan.

“If we could surge the court proceedings -- immigration court proceedings on the border -- and within the law, do it very rapidly,” Kelly said, “I think that alone would act as a huge deterrent for people who are considering making the trip up.”

Asked about how the U.S. will pay for the construction of the wall, the Homeland Security secretary said the department was “looking at the money aspect” but that the White House was working with Congress for options. 

Even some Republican representatives from Texas, however, have expressed discontent about the border wall. 

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, slammed Mr. Trump’s executive order in a statement last week saying that “building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.” 

And as of mid-December, a Texas Tribune survey found that none of Texas’ 38-member congressional delegation had offered “full-throated support” of Mr. Trump’s floated wall plan. 

In his interview with Fox News, Kelly also addressed the recent detentions at airports after Mr. Trump signed an executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program and banning travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. 

Kelly acknowledged that the speed of its implementation had probably come as a shock to Americans, but defended his employees as having done “a great job out on the front lines, in this case mostly at the airports.” 

“People were treated with dignity and respect,” he said. 

Pressed on whether he was surprised by the order, Kelly responded “not at all.”

“I saw the initial couple of cuts on them probably on Tuesday maybe Thursday, knew it was coming soon and then it came,“ he said.

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