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Chief Bakes

BBC: Trump wall: President's view on Mexico border has changed - Kelly

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Chief Bakes

Trump wall: President's view on Mexico border has changed - Kelly

  • 18 January 2018
US border patrol officers walk near a prototype for the border wall with Mexico, October 2017Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A prototype for President Trump's border wall in Tijuana, Mexico

US President Donald Trump's views on Mexico border wall have evolved, says his chief of staff, John Kelly.

Speaking to Fox News, Mr Kelly also did not deny reports that he had described the president as "uninformed" when he made campaign promises about a wall.

The comments were overheard during an immigration meeting on Wednesday, according to US media.

A row on immigration between lawmakers and the White House is currently risking a federal government shutdown.

Why does the wall matter now?

Congress faces a deadline of midnight on Friday to pass a stopgap measure that would fund federal agencies until next month.

Democrats want the bill to include protections for immigrants who entered the US illegally as children, known as "Dreamers".

Republican President Trump has been fighting to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme.

However, he had signalled he was ready to make a deal to help the Dreamers, in return for funding for border-security plans, which include building a wall along the Mexican border.

How have the wall plans changed?

Mr Kelly said the administration was now looking at creating a wall across 700 miles (1125 km) of the 3,100km stretch. He said this would include improving existing fences.

He said the estimated cost was $20bn (£14bn; 16bn euros); Mr Trump had originally put the figure at $10-$12bn.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John Kelly (L) was appointed as President Trump's chief of staff in July

During his election campaign, Mr Trump had also insisted Mexico would pay for it in its entirety.

Mr Kelly said they were now looking at alternative ways to raise funds, including via possible visa fees or renegotiating the Nafta trade deal.

"Campaigning is very different from governing," he said in the Wednesday night interview.

Earlier, other US media reported that Mr Kelly had privately told a group of Democrats from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that President Trump had not been fully informed when he came up with his wall plans.

Mr Kelly was quoted as saying that he had tried to persuade the president to change his position on the issue.

Power dynamics

Neither Republicans nor Democrats want to be blamed for a federal shutdown with crucial mid-term elections looming in November.

Republicans have the advantage, by controlling both chambers of Congress, but they are seen as divided on key issues.

BBC News North America reporter Anthony Zurcher says if they stick together, the Republicans in the House of Representatives can pass some sort of short-term solution without any Democratic support. However, Senate Democrats will then have to decide whether they have the numbers to block the bill and force a shutdown.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Congress has until Friday to pass a bill keeping the government open

What do Democrats want?

Democrats want the funding bill to include protections for around 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

Bipartisan immigration talks had sounded promising until it was reported last week that Mr Trump had dubbed certain nations "####holes" during legislative negotiations.

The president gave a deadline of 5 March for Congress to come up with a solution.

p05v60ff.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionYour silence and your amnesia is complicity

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin maintain a deal is still on the table.

But the White House has declared it dead, leaving immigration out of the spending bill to be voted on by Friday.

Immigration negotiations would continue next week if Democrats support the bill, said the White House.

What are Republicans offering?

House Republicans are trying to persuade Democrats to vote for the continuing resolution by including a provision to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program (Chip) for six years.

Chip, which provides healthcare for nine million children, is near the top of the Democrats' wish list.

At least some Democratic votes are needed to pass the budget measure ahead of Friday's deadline.

Republicans then have to tackle their own divisions, and hope a provision in the bill to eliminate a tax on expensive health plans could appease conservative lawmakers.

p05v60ff.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionYour silence and your amnesia is complicity

Didn't this just happen?

Yes. In December, Congress passed a similar short-term bill to keep the government open until 19 January.

The hope had been that Congress would have reached a deal on immigration by now.

And this deal, if it passes, would only keep the government running until 16 February.

The whole drama may be replayed in the coming weeks.

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