Spikes, electric fences and alligators: Here’s what Trump reportedly suggested at the border

President Trump is pictured with Border Patrol officials near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry
Border Patrol officials explain design details of new border fencing to President Trump near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry earlier this year.
(John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

President Trump has suggested shooting migrants in the legs, installing a water-filled trench full of alligators and equipping barriers at the border with electric currents in addition to spikes “that could pierce human flesh,” according to the New York Times.

The New York Times published a report Tuesday describing a series of ideas Trump raised in conversations with White House advisors in March based on interviews with more than a dozen White House and administration officials. The Times story was adapted from an upcoming book by reporters Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.”

The president denied the reporting in a tweet on Wednesday.


Here’s a look at the comments that were reportedly made in Oval Office meetings and on-the-ground conversations.

  • Trump reportedly ordered White House advisors to shut down the entire U.S.-Mexico border with one day’s notice.

    The president told then-Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan (now acting Homeland Security secretary) to stop letting migrants cross the border, with no exceptions. If McAleenan got in any trouble, the president said, he would be pardoned.

    Aides pushed back on the request, citing how it would wreak havoc on travel and trade for both countries. At a separate meeting where Trump reiterated his command to Border Patrol agents, McAleenan, after the president left the room, told the agents to ignore the order.

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Aug. 28, 2019

  • After suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks at the border, the president backed off when his aides told him that was illegal, according to the Times.
  • In later meetings, he suggested that agents shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. But officials reportedly told him that wasn’t allowed either.

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Sept. 19, 2019

  • In private conversations, the Times reported, Trump discussed bolstering the border wall with a water-filled trench full of snakes or alligators. He raised this with enough seriousness that officials looked to secure a cost estimate.
  • Trump also reportedly mentioned his desire for an electrified border wall equipped with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh.
  • According to the Times, Trump demanded of then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that the wall be painted “flat black” -- a detail the secretary said would cost an additional $1 million per mile -- and that officials should “take the land” from property owners to speed up construction.
  • He also reportedly told her that the U.S. needed a cement wall, although she told him that likely wasn’t possible given that the design and contracts had long been finalized. Following that conversation, the Times reported, the president responded that it was time for her to go. That evening, he tweeted that Nielsen would be leaving her post.

The full New York Times report can be read here.


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