Speaker Ryan Says Not Planning to Wall Off Entire Mexican Border

(Bloomberg) -- President-elect Donald Trump’s much-discussed Mexican wall may be a fence in places, or a barrier, or something else that secures the border, said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who also rejected the idea of a deportation force to move undocumented immigrants out of the U.S.

As Trump himself has dialed back some of his fiercest campaign rhetoric on immigration policies, Ryan -- who said he now speaks to the president-elect almost every day -- will focus on securing the border in whichever way makes sense, he said in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview broadcast on Sunday.

“Conditions on the ground determine what you need in a particular area,” said Ryan, according to a transcript provided by the network. The speaker, whose Republican-controlled House will be instrumental in helping Trump address many of his policy promises, said that while a wall may be warranted in some places, other spots may just need double fencing or some other type of barrier.

Trump’s campaign took a hard line against illegal immigration from its start in mid-2015, and his promise to erect a border wall became a rallying cry for his supporters. As recently as the president-elect’s victory-tour rally in Cincinnati on Dec 1, the crowd was chanting “build the wall.”

Undocumented Immigrants

Vice President-elect Mike Pence reiterated the incoming administration’s vow in a Sunday television interview, saying the U.S. will build a wall and that there are “a variety of ways” to get Mexico to pay for it. For his part, Trump also said in an interview after the election that part of the wall on the 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometer) border could actually be a fence.

Various senior Mexican officials have said publicly the country won’t finance such a project.

Trump, as a candidate, had also vowed to push more than 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the U.S., though he has more recently said he’d immediately expel those associated with criminal behavior, which he estimated at 2 million to 3 million. Though Trump promised on the campaign trail that he’d establish a deportation force to eject those in the country illegally, Ryan said that’s not on the agenda.

“We’re not working on a deportation force,” he said, adding that the current immigration laws should be enforced against those “who came and committed violent crimes.”

Ryan also said that he has no plans for changing Social Security. He repeated a previous position that Medicare, the health-care program for retirees, needs to be overhauled so it can be available for future generations.

“We’re just not ready for the retirement of the baby boomers,” Ryan said. “And we’d better prepare for that.”

Ryan said the first bill that the House will work on in 2017 will be to repeal Obamacare, a process he said would include “a good transition period, so that people can get better coverage at a better price.” He declined to say how long that transition period might last.