Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro Reacts To The Temporary Shutdown Deal
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The government is back up and running, but President Trump says he may let it shut down in just another three weeks if Congress doesn't authorize billions of dollars to build his border wall. We begin this hour with a Democratic member of Congress. Joaquin Castro, of course, is from Texas and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Mr. Castro, thanks so much for being with us.
JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
SIMON: So how do you react to that? Are you and other Democrats willing to risk another shutdown by not authorizing any money for a wall?
CASTRO: Yeah. Most of Congress is not supportive of a wall in the same way that most Americans are not supportive of a wall because it's not the best approach to border security. Instead, it's a political ploy by the president. And so I hope that during these three weeks, the appropriators from both chambers that have been appointed to the conference committee can come up with an agreement on border security. But I think if they approach the issue reasonably, they'll see that a wall doesn't make the most sense.
SIMON: When you talk about an agreement for border security, give us some idea, if you could, of a price tag that you're willing to accept - you know - what? - $2 billion, $3 billion - and don't call it a wall, but call it border security.
CASTRO: Well, remember; the purpose - at least in theory, the purpose of a wall is for border security, is to secure the border. So when folks were talking about a compromise, for example, the compromise is not a wall. The compromise is doing more on border security. So we've talked about things like greater technology, for example, reinforcing customs in our ports because the biggest threat coming through the border is actually not people. It's drugs, and most particularly opioids, that kill thousands of Americans every year. And yet the president has focused very little and actually the Congress has not focused as much as it should on combating that threat.
SIMON: Mr. Castro, I can't pretend to read the president's mind, but I think he's been pretty explicit about saying when he talks about a compromise, he means the amount of money for a wall. He says maybe it won't be bricks. Maybe it'll be steel spikes. But he wants something standing there.
CASTRO: Yeah. No, I agree. I agree that that is what he said that he wants. But you also saw that he didn't get that yesterday, and I don't think he's going to get it in three weeks.
SIMON: What's your reaction to the argument that build a wall was a chant at Trump campaign rallies, he promised the wall, of course, he said Mexico would pay for it if he was elected and, in the end, he's just carrying out a promise that he made to the American people?
CASTRO: That may be so, but it was a foolish promise because most Americans don't want it, and it doesn't make sense in terms of effectiveness. In fact, there have been stories even recently about migrants and immigrants tunneling beneath the sections of the border that actually have a wall, literally digging tunnels and going underneath and then popping up on the American side. So it's something that doesn't make the most sense.
SIMON: Mr. Castro, in the minute we have left, the president also says if he doesn't get a deal from Congress, he might invoke emergency executive powers to build a wall. How would you react to that?
CASTRO: We would push back in every single way that we could. There would be lawsuits that would be filed. Of course, we'd file legislation to undo it. And I'm sure the American people would protest that because there is no national emergency at the border. There is a humanitarian crisis, but that's different from the picture that the president has painted of all of these folks coming to invade the United States and do harm to Americans. These are asylees and folks that are seeking refuge in the United States.
SIMON: Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas speaking to us from his home district in San Antonio. Mr. Castro, thanks so much for being with us.
CASTRO: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.