Congressman Will Hurd said that the illegal border crossings are a “major problem,” but said his opposition to President Trump declaring a national emergency is due to the move setting a dangerous Constitutional precedent.
Hurd took part in a teleconference Friday, March 8 featuring reporters from about eight weekly newspapers from the sprawling 23rd Congressional District he represents.
The conference was organized by The Pioneer in order to give the congressman a chance to discuss his border security views in the wake of a Feb. 19 private meeting with at least eight county Republican Party leaders over their concerns with his views and votes on border policy.
“When a pres declares a national emergency, it gives the chief executive the ability to transfer money from one location to another,” Hurd said. “That is a role and responsibility that are articulated in Article 1 of the Constitution and given to Congress.
“So for me – yes, we have a problem – but I do not believe that the any president should be able to take money from one account and put it in another account without the approval of Congress. The framers of our Constitution gave Congress the power of the purse for a reason as the ultimate check-and-balance.”
He expressed concern that $1 billion in spending for military pay and pensions is tabbed for building the border wall under Trump's national emergency order.
Hurd is concerned that what is done now under a national emergency may have unintended consequences in future administrations.
“What happens if another administration that is supportive of the Green New Deal uses money from the military to tell you you can't drive your truck Monday through Thursday, to tell Southwest or United how many flights they can have.”
Hurd said he believes the president is correct in making border security “such an important focus,” but differs on the need to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexican border.
“I started talking about this when I first ran for office way back in 2009 and its 2019 and we don't have operational control of our border,” Hurd said. “When I used that phrase I use the definition that the Texas Department of Public Safety uses that's knowing which people coming back and forth across the border. We don't have that type of control right now in 2019.
“It's a major problem, It's 400,000 people came here illegally last year and $67 billion – that's a low estimate – in illegal narcotics coming into our country.”
Hurd said that 654 miles of barrier wall or fencing exists on the border and that another 88 miles are being constructed.
“But the reason we haven't secured our border in 2019 is that we are not looking at all 2,000 miles at the same time,” Hurd said. “You put all of your attention in one area and, guess what? The bad guys go someplace else.”
Hurd said that the combination of physical barriers, technology and manpower is the only way to secure the border, and that barriers are only needed in certain areas.
“Even the president has said that building a wall from sea-to-shining-sea is not what he's interested in doing,” Hurd said.
Hurd said there are 2,000 open border patrol position and that more people are needed.
“We are talking about response times in hours and days,” Hurd said. “If it takes that long, the wall or fence isn't going to matter. Technology will allow us to track people as they cross the border and driect the border patrol to them.”
The Congressman also said that people are taking advantage of the asylum process, noting that fewer that 1 percent of asylum seekers are ever granted asylum.
Hurd said the last funding measure passed included funding for 165 new immigration judges.
In addition to fixing the asylum situation, Hurd said that the root causes of illegal immigration must also be addressed: violence and lack of economic opportunity in Central America.
“When you see a decrease in violence, you see a dramatic decrease in people coming from that country or providence,” Hurd said.
Hurd acknowledged that much needs to be done to aid counties that are spending resources on illegal immigrants, especially in the health care system. He also voiced concerned over the spread of disease among immigrants after they are caught or present themselves in the U.S., and are transported elsewhere.