President Donald Trump was not joking when he said the border wall he hopes to build along the U.S.-Mexico border might be solar powered.
Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One as they flew to Paris, France on Wednesday, Trump was asked about comments made indicating his border wall might be a renewable energy source.
“There is a chance that we can do a solar wall,” Trump responded. “We have major companies looking at that. Look, there’s no better place for solar than the Mexico border — the southern border. And there is a very good chance we can do a solar wall, which would actually look good. But there is a very good chance we could do a solar wall.”
Throughout his run for president, Trump vowed repeatedly to build a border wall, one he initially promised Mexico would pay for. While that funding option is unlikely (albeit an enduring talking point for the president), the wall remains a priority for Trump. In June, he floated a way the wall could potentially pay for itself: solar power.
But a wall powered by solar energy poses a host of problems. As less than 2 percent of the U.S. population live within 40 miles of the border, the option has been called into question by analysts, in large part because it would require a multibillion dollar power line. The area is also prone to flooding, something that would render such a wall virtually impossible.
Powered by solar or not, the wall itself poses a host of other problems ecologically, negating any potential gains made from renewable energy. Environmental activists have long warned that building a border wall could have a catastrophic toll on the environment, devastating habitats and potentially leading to the extinction of endangered and threatened species, like jaguars and the Mexican gray wolf.
“This would cause incalculable damage to the integrity of wildlife populations on either side of the border, as well as the massive societal disruption it would cause,” Defenders of Wildlife’s Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs Bob Dreher told NBC News in April.
But Wednesday’s comments were an indicator Trump hasn’t abandoned the idea — or its nuances. Aboard Air Force One, he floated a possibility he hasn’t actively honed in on before: making the wall see-through.
“One of the things with the wall is you need transparency,” he said. “You have to be able to see through it. In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.”
Trump went on to elaborate. “And I’ll give you an example,” the president said. “As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall. But we have some incredible designs.”
The idea of a see-through border wall has been proposed before, in a manner of speaking. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in February that parts of the wall would rely on surveillance technology in place of a physical structure. Border patrol agents have also reportedly asked for a wall they can see-through, a request that now appears to be under consideration, per Trump’s comments.
See-through, covered in solar panels, or otherwise, the wall could be headed for a showdown in Congress. This week, House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said he would let the government shut down if a budget funding the wall wasn’t passed. Currently funded through the end of September, the government will need to pass another budget bill in order to continue operations in the fall. But Meadows says there are enough members of Congress to ensure that doesn’t happen — unless the wall is funded.
“There is nothing more critical that has to be funded than funding the border wall for two reasons,” he told Breitbart News.
Regardless of whether the wall receives funding, the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration is continuing in full-force. On Thursday, Kelly told Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that the White House may not support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative put in place by former President Barack Obama.
Up until now, DACA, which shielded around 800,000 undocumented immigrants, has been mostly untouched by the White House, something that could now change. Documented immigration is also likely to see a crackdown: According to reports, Trump plans to support efforts to cut in half the number of immigrants legally entering the country each year by 2027.