Texas Democrat Discusses Border Wall Funding, Working With Trump
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
For more on - for more reaction to what this means for communities on the southern border, we turn to Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas. Welcome to the program.
HENRY CUELLAR: Thank you so much.
CORNISH: So this back and forth today ostensibly came down to the issue of border security and what money may or may not be spent along those lines. What's your reaction to what you saw, what transpired?
CUELLAR: Well, first of all, I live on the border. I drink the water. I breathe the air there, so I'm very familiar, so I'm not one of those individuals that might visit the border once or twice and think that they know the border better. We want to have border security. By border security, we're talking about technology, making sure that Border Patrol and CBP - as you know, Border Patrol, the men and women in green that guard between ports of entry, CBP are the men and women in blue that guard - or that man the ports of entry. And we need to have a combination of both because if you want to stop drugs - and I've said this to the president - if you want to stop drugs, keep in mind that according to the DEA, most drugs will come through ports of entry. So let's put emphasis...
CORNISH: Congressman, let me jump in here.
CUELLAR: ...On the port of entry, technology and personnel.
CORNISH: Yeah. I want to jump in here because the president is talking about funding for a physical wall. You wrote Senator Schumer, saying Democrats should oppose all funding for a physical wall. Do you see any room for negotiation? Do you think your leadership is wasting its time?
CUELLAR: Look; the problem is the president and some Republicans think that a wall equates to border security. Border security equates to technology, personnel, having the right protocols down there. I mean, does the president even know that Border Patrol is losing more men and women than they're actually hiring right now? Does the president know that if he goes down to the border and sees some of those technology - and I've been there in the middle of night with, let's say, Hector Garza, the head of the Border Patrol down there - the union down there - he'll say, look at that camera over there. That one is working. The other one facing the other way is not working. So why do we have technology or cameras that are not working - or sensors? Why are we losing more Border Patrol than we're hiring Border Patrol? So again, let's stick to the fundamentals. Border security means addressing the issues.
CORNISH: So then on the question of negotiating, you have...
CUELLAR: Nobody's talking about open orders. Nobody's talking about open borders except the Republicans.
CORNISH: On the question of negotiating, you have Nancy Pelosi, who has flat out recently said that she wouldn't, for instance, do a deal that would do border security funding in exchange for the DACA program, aka helping the DREAMers. Should she do that? Should she rule that out completely? Is there some point, like with DACA, where there could be some bargain?
CUELLAR: Well, again, look; immigration is one thing. The border security is another thing. So try to - you know, anybody who wants to tie both of them together is doing a disservice. I'm for full immigration reform. I'm for protecting the DREAMers. But, again, you don't give in and say we're going to put a wall down here. Why is it that the private property rights or the water or the environmental sensitive areas that we have down there in the southern border less important than the border that we have with Canada? So we believe in private property rights. We believe in protecting the border. But, again, a wall is a 14th-century solution trying to address the issues that we have in this 21st-century issues. There's ways of addressing border security.
CORNISH: After watching this meeting today do you have more or less confidence in Nancy Pelosi? Does this solidify her bid at being speaker to you?
CUELLAR: You know, I've been part of her leadership for many, many years, so I've seen her in public and in private. And if there's anybody that can stand up to the president and do it in a way and a respectful way to the president but still stand her ground, it's going to be Pelosi. So for any of those Democrats that have been thinking, well, should we have her or not, they need to look at that - like you or somebody said a few minutes ago, watch that YouTube video and see how well she handled herself. That's the type of person that we need to negotiate for Democrats.
CORNISH: Henry Cuellar is a Democratic congressman from Texas. His district runs along the border with Mexico. Thank you for speaking with us.
CUELLAR: Thank you so much.
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