Donald Trump has been running for president on building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to better secure the border, but during Ronald Reagan's presidency, another approach was pondered, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating said Tuesday.
"In my past, I've supervised a big chunk of the federal law enforcement establishment. The Immigration Services [and] Border Patrol reported to me during the late Reagan period. And we were even contemplating [at the time] a ditch, not a wall ... because we have to take control of our borders," Keating told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
In the late 1980s, Keating served as assistant secretary of the Treasury, where he presided over agencies including what were then called the Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Like Trump, Reagan also waded into immigration, signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which aimed to tighten border security and crack down on companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. But the 1986 law also provided amnesty for 2.7 million undocumented immigrants.
Keating said Tuesday that securing the U.S. borders is especially important considering the threat of terrorism, and an open border policy is not sound policy. "We've been debating this since the 1986 Immigration Reform Act. We really haven't done anything about it."