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← A wall won't solve America's border problems

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Showing Revision 8 created 09/26/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. Anne Milgram: Congressman,
    I was about to introduce you
  2. and say a little more --
  3. Will Hurd: Hey, Anne. How are you?

  4. AM: Hi, how are you doing?
    Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

  5. We're so lucky to have you here with us.
  6. I've already explained
    that you're actually in Washington
  7. because you're working.
  8. And I was about to tell folks
  9. that you represent
    the 23rd district of Texas.
  10. But maybe you could tell us
    a little bit about your district
  11. and describe it for us.
  12. WH: Sure, my district in Southwest Texas
    is 29 counties, two time zones,

  13. 820 miles of border
    from Eagle Pass, Texas
  14. all the way to El Paso.
  15. It takes 10 and a half hours to drive
    across my district at 80 miles an hour,
  16. which is the speed limit
    in most of the district.
  17. And I found out a couple of weekends ago,
  18. it's not the speed limit
    in all the district.
  19. (Laughter)

  20. It's a 71-percent Latino district,

  21. and it's the district that
    I've been representing
  22. for now my third term in Congress.
  23. And when you think
    about the issue of the border,
  24. I have more border
    than any other member of Congress.
  25. I spent nine and a half years
    as an undercover officer in the CIA,
  26. chasing bad people all across the country.
  27. So when it comes to securing our border,
  28. it's something I know a little bit about.
  29. AM: One of the things I learned recently
    which I hadn't known before

  30. is that your district
    is actually the size, I think,
  31. of the state of Georgia?
  32. WH: That's right.

  33. It's larger than 26 states,
    roughly the size of the state of Georgia.
  34. So it's pretty big.
  35. AM: So as an expert in national security

  36. and as a member of Congress,
  37. you've been called upon
    to think about issues
  38. related to immigration,
  39. and in recent years,
    particularly about the border wall.
  40. What is your reaction
    to President Trump's statement
  41. that we need a big, beautiful wall
    that would stretch across our border,
  42. and at 18 to 30 feet high?
  43. WH: I've been saying this since I first
    ran for Congress back in 2009,

  44. this is not a new topic,
  45. that building a 30-foot-high
    concrete structure
  46. from sea to shining sea
  47. is the most expensive
    and least effective way
  48. to do border security.
  49. There are parts of the border
  50. where Border Patrol's
    response time to a threat
  51. is measured in hours to days.
  52. If your response time
    is measured in hours to days,
  53. then a wall is not a physical barrier.
  54. We should be having technology
    along the border,
  55. we should have operation
    control of our border,
  56. which means we know everything
    that's going back and forth across it.
  57. We can do a lot of that with technology.
  58. We also need more folks
    within our border patrol.
  59. But in addition to doing all this,
  60. one of the things we should be able to do
    is streamline legal immigration.
  61. If you're going to be
    a productive member of our society,
  62. let's get you here as quickly as possible,
  63. but let's do it legally.
  64. And if we're able to streamline that,
    then you're going to see
  65. some of the pressures
    relieved along our border
  66. and allow men and women in Border Patrol
    to focus on human trafficking
  67. and drug-trafficking
    organizations as well.
  68. AM: Congressman,

  69. there's also been a conversation
    nationally about using emergency funds
  70. to build the border wall
  71. and taking those funds
    from the United States military.
  72. What has your position been on that issue?
  73. WH: I'm one of the few Republicans up here
    that has opposed that effort.

  74. We are just now rebuilding our military,
  75. and taking funds away from making sure
  76. that our brothers and sisters,
    our wives and our husbands
  77. have the training and equipment they need
  78. in order to take care of us
    in far-flung places --
  79. taking money away from them
    is not an efficient use of our resources,
  80. especially if it's going to build a ...
  81. you know, I always say
    it's a fourth-century solution
  82. to a 21st-century problem.
  83. And the reality is,
    what we should be focusing on
  84. is some of the other root causes
    of this problem,
  85. and many of your speakers today
    have talked about that.
  86. Some of those key root problems
    are violence, lack of economic opportunity
  87. and extreme poverty,
  88. specifically, in the Northern Triangle:
    El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
  89. We should be working --
  90. AM: I was going to ask
    what you would recommend

  91. United States government does
    to address the underlying,
  92. what we call push factors, or root causes
  93. in those three countries
    in Central America?
  94. WH: One of the things I learned
    as an undercover officer in the CIA

  95. is be nice with nice guys
    and tough with tough guys.
  96. And one of the principles
    of being nice with nice guys
  97. is to strengthen our alliances.
  98. We have a number of programs
    currently in these three countries
  99. that USAID and the State Department
    is doing to address this violence issue.
  100. And we know, in El Salvador,
  101. one of the problems was
    that the police were corrupt.
  102. And so we've worked with the Salvadorians
    to purge the police,
  103. rehire new folks,
  104. use community policing tactics.
  105. These are tactics the men and women
    in the United States of America
  106. and police forces
  107. use every single day.
  108. And when we did this
    in certain communities,
  109. guess what happened?
  110. We saw a decrease in the violence
    that was happening in those communities.
  111. And then we also saw
  112. a decrease in the number of people
    that were leaving those areas
  113. to try to come
    to the United States illegally.
  114. So it's a fraction of the cost
    to solve a problem there,
  115. before it ultimately reaches our border.
  116. And one of the reasons
    that you have violence and crime
  117. is political corruption
  118. and the lack of central governments
    to protect its citizens.
  119. And so this is something
    we should be continuing to work on.
  120. We shouldn't be decreasing
    the amount of money that we have
  121. that we're sending to these countries.
  122. I actually think
    we should be increasing it.
  123. I believe the first thing --
    we should have done this months ago --
  124. is select a special representative
    for the Northern Triangle.
  125. That's a senior diplomat
  126. that's going to work to make sure
    we're using all of our levers of power
  127. to help these three countries,
  128. and then that we're doing it
    in a coordinated effort.
  129. This is not just a problem
    for the United States and Mexico,
  130. this is a problem for the entire
    western hemisphere.
  131. So, where is the Organization
    of American States?
  132. Where is the International
    Development Bank?
  133. We should be having a collective plan
    to address these root causes.
  134. And when you talk about violence,

  135. a lot of times, we talk
    about these terrible gangs like MS-13.
  136. But it's also violence like
    women being beaten by their husbands.
  137. And they have nobody else to go to,
  138. and they are unable to deal
    with this current problem.
  139. So these are the types of issues
  140. that we should be increasing
    our diplomacy,
  141. increasing our economic development aid.
  142. AM: Please, I want to take you now

  143. from thinking about the root causes
    in Central America
  144. to thinking about the separation
    of children and families
  145. in the United States.
  146. Starting in April 2018,
  147. the Trump administration began
    a no-tolerance policy
  148. for immigrants, people seeking
    refugee status, asylum
  149. in the United States.
  150. And that led to the separation
    of 2,700 children
  151. in the first year
    that that program was run.
  152. Now, I want to address this with you,
  153. and I want to separate it up front
    into two different conversations.
  154. One of the things
    that the administration did
  155. was file legal court papers,
  156. saying that one of the primary
    purposes of the separations
  157. was to act as a deterrent
  158. against people coming
    to the United States.
  159. And I want to talk for a moment
    about that from a moral perspective
  160. and to get your views.
  161. WH: We shouldn't be doing it,
    period. It's real simple.

  162. And guess what, it wasn't a deterrent.
  163. You only saw an increase
    in the amount of illegal immigration.
  164. And when you're sitting,
    debating a strategy,
  165. if somebody comes up with the idea
  166. of snatching a child
    out of their mother's arms,
  167. you need to go back to the drawing board.
  168. This is not what the United States
    of America stands for,
  169. this is not a Republican
    or a Democrat or independent thing.
  170. This is a human decency thing.
  171. And so, using that strategy,
  172. it didn't achieve the ultimate purpose.
  173. And ultimately, the amount
    of research that is done
  174. and the impact that
    the detention of children has --
  175. especially if it's over 21 days --
  176. has on their development and their future
  177. is disastrous.
  178. So we shouldn't be trying to detain
    children for any more than 21 days,
  179. and we should be getting children,
    if they're in our custody,
  180. we should be taking care of them humanely,
  181. and making sure they're with people
  182. that can provide them a safe
    and loving environment.
  183. AM: I would challenge you
    even on the 21-day number,

  184. but for the purposes of this conversation,
  185. I want to follow up
    on something you just said,
  186. which is both that it's wrong
    to detain children,
  187. and that it's not effective.
  188. So the question, then, is why
    does the administration continue to do it,
  189. when we've seen 900 additional children
    separated from their parents
  190. since the summer of 2018?
  191. Why is this happening?
  192. WH: Well, that's something
    that you'd have to ultimately

  193. ask the administration.
  194. These are questions that I've been asking.
  195. The Tornillo facility is in my district.
  196. These are buildings that are not
    designed to hold anybody
  197. for multiple days,
  198. let alone children.
  199. We should be making sure
    that if they are in our custody --
  200. a lot of times for
    the uncompanied children,
  201. we don't have a ...
  202. we don't know of a patron or a family
    member in the United States,
  203. and we should make sure
    that they're in facilities
  204. where they're able to go to school
  205. and have proper food and health care.
  206. And if we're able to find
    a sponsor or family member,
  207. let's get them into that custody,
  208. while they're waiting
    for their immigration court case.
  209. That's the other issue here.
  210. When you have a backlog of cases --
  211. I think it's now 900,000 cases
    that are backlogged --
  212. we should be able to do
    an immigration hearing
  213. within nine months.
  214. I think most of the legal community
    thinks that is enough time
  215. to do something like this,
  216. so that we can facilitate
    whether someone, an individual,
  217. is able to stay in the United States
  218. or they're going to have to be returned
    back to their home country,
  219. rather than being in this limbo
    for five years.
  220. AM: If we think about
    the asylum system today,

  221. where people are coming and saying
    that they have a credible threat,
  222. that they will be persecuted back home,
  223. and we think about the fact
    that on average,
  224. it's about two years for someone
    to get an asylum hearing,
  225. that many people are not represented
    as they go through that process,
  226. it makes me think about something
  227. that they say in the health care
    space all the time,
  228. which is that every system
    is perfectly designed
  229. to get the results it gets.
  230. And so as you think about this
  231. and think about how we would
    redesign this system
  232. to not do what we're doing,
  233. which is years and years
    of detention and separations and hardship
  234. for people seeking --
  235. and again, asylum being a lawful
    United States government process --
  236. for people seeking
    to enter our country lawfully.
  237. What should we do?
  238. WH: I tried to increase
    by four billion dollars

  239. the amount of resources that HHS has
  240. in order to specifically deal,
    ultimately, with children.
  241. I think we need more immigration judges
    in order to process these cases,
  242. and I think we need to ensure
    that folks can get representation.
  243. I've been able to work with a number
    of lawyers up and down the border
  244. to make sure they are being able
    to get access to the folks
  245. that are having these problems.
  246. And so this is something
    that we should be able to design.
  247. And ultimately, when it comes to children,
  248. we should be doing everything we can
    when they're in our custody,
  249. in order to take care of them.
  250. AM: So I have two more questions for you

  251. before I'm going to let you
    go back to work.
  252. The first is about our focus
    in the United States
  253. on the questions of immigration.
  254. Because if you look
    at some of the statistics,
  255. you see that of people
    who are undocumented
  256. in the United States,
  257. the majority of people
    have overstayed on visas,
  258. they haven't come through the border.
  259. If you look at the people
    who try to enter the country
  260. who are on the terrorist watch list,
  261. they enter overwhelmingly
    through the airports
  262. and not through the border.
  263. If we look at drugs
    coming into the United States,
  264. which has been a huge part
    of this conversation,
  265. the vast majority of those drugs
    come through our ports
  266. and through other points of entry,
  267. not through backpacks
    on people crossing the border.
  268. So the thing I always ask
  269. and I always worry about with government,
  270. is that we focus so much on one thing,
  271. and my question for you
    is whether we are focused
  272. in this conversation nationally
    about the border,
  273. every day and every minute of every day,
  274. whether we're looking
    completely in the wrong direction.
  275. WH: I would agree with your premise.

  276. When you have --
  277. let's start with the economic benefits.
  278. When you have 3.6 percent unemployment,
  279. what does that mean?
  280. That means you need folks
    in every industry,
  281. whether it's agriculture
    or artificial intelligence.
  282. So why aren't we streamlining
    legal immigration?
  283. We should be able
    to make this market based
  284. in order to have folks come in
  285. and be productive members of our society.
  286. When it comes to the drug issue
    you're talking about,
  287. yes, it's in our ports of entry,
  288. but it's also coming in to our shores.
  289. Coast Guard is only able to action
  290. 25 percent of the known
    intelligence they have
  291. on drugs coming into our country.
  292. The metric that we should
    be measuring [is]
  293. are we seeing a decrease of deaths
    from overdose from drugs overseas,
  294. are we seeing a decrease
    in illegal immigration?
  295. It's not how many miles of fencing
    that we have ultimately built.
  296. And so we have benefited
  297. from the brain drain
    of every other country
  298. for the last couple of decades.
  299. I want to see that continue,
  300. and I want to see that continue
    with the hardworking drain.
  301. And I can sell you this:
  302. at last Congress, Pete Aguilar,
    a Democrat from California, and I
  303. had a piece of legislation
    called the USA Act:
  304. strong border security,
    streamline legal immigration,
  305. fix DACA -- 1.2 million kids who have
    only known the United States of America
  306. as their home --
  307. these kids, or I should say
    young men and women,
  308. they are already Americans,
  309. let's not have them go through
    any more uncertainty
  310. and make that ultimately happen.
  311. We had 245 people that were willing
    to sign this bill into law,
  312. it wasn't allowed to come forward
    under a Republican speaker,
  313. and also the current Democratic speaker
    hasn't brought this bill
  314. through in something
    that we would be able to pass.
  315. AM: So I want to close,

  316. and you are, perhaps, most famous --
    I don't know if that's fair --
  317. but you took a road trip
    with Beto O'Rourke
  318. from your district to Washington, DC,
  319. and you've become known
    for reaching across the aisle
  320. and engaging in these
    bipartisan conversations.
  321. And one of the things
    I've seen you say repeatedly
  322. is to talk about how we are all united.
  323. And I think, when we think
    about the language of immigration
  324. and we start hearing words
    about enemies and militarization,
  325. I think the real question is:
    How do we convince all Americans
  326. to understand what you say
    that more unites us than divides us?
  327. WH: Crisscrossing a district like mine
    that's truly 50-50 --

  328. 50 percent Democrat,
    50 percent Republican,
  329. it's been very clear to me
    that way more unites us than divides us.
  330. And if we focus on those things
    that we agree on,
  331. we'll all be better off.
  332. And I'm not going to get
    a perfect attendance award
  333. for going to church,
  334. but I do remember when Jesus
    was in the Second Temple
  335. and the Pharisees asked him
    what's the most important commandment,
  336. and he said to "Love thy Lord God
    with all your heart, mind and soul."
  337. But people forget he also said,
    "Equally as important,
  338. is to love thy neighbor like thyself."
  339. And if we remember that
    and realize what it would mean,
  340. and what you would
    have to be going through
  341. to be living in a situation
  342. that you may send your child
    on a 3,000-mile perilous journey,
  343. because that's what you think
    the only thing for their future,
  344. the only thing that you can do
    to make sure their future is bright,
  345. if we all remember that situation,
  346. and think what we would do
    in that situation,
  347. I think we'd also be better off.
  348. AM: Thank you, Congressman.
    Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

  349. (Applause)