President-elect Donald Trump backed away from his promise to build a wall on the US-Mexican border, saying some areas could instead be “fencing,” and added he would move to deport up to 3 million immigrants in the country illegally who have criminal records.
Trump, who made his pledge to force Mexico to pay for a border wall a centrepiece of his White House campaign, said “for certain areas” he would accept fencing instead of a brick-and-mortar wall, according to excerpts released on Sunday of his interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes.”
“But certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I’m very good at this, it’s called construction, there could be some fencing,” the New York real estate developer said.
Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s election and replaces Democratic President Barack Obama on January 20, also said once he takes office he would remove immigrants in the country illegally with criminal records.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country,” he told “60 Minutes.”
During the campaign, Trump said he would deport the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, most of whom are Hispanic. In calling for the construction of a border wall, Trump said Mexico was sending criminals and rapists into the United States.
Trump and his senior advisers have signalled they could be flexible on some of his campaign promises once he takes office.
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who will play a key role in getting Trump’s agenda through the Republican-led Congress, backed away from Trump’s promise during the campaign of a “deportation force” to round up and deport immigrants in the country illegally.
“We are not planning on erecting a deportation force. Donald Trump’s not planning on that,” Ryan told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “I think we should put people’s minds at ease. That is not what our focus is. That is not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on securing the border.”
Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday” the wall with Mexico could in parts be a “virtual” wall patrolled by drones.
“You have to put a wall, it could be all virtual with the UAV airplanes as well, but I think that is doable and one of the first things that needs to be done,” McCarthy said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.