Rep. Will Hurd On Border Crossings
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump is repeating demands for changes to immigration laws. He's doing that as officials struggle to house migrants who have arrived seeking asylum.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes. We need to get rid of chain migration.
INSKEEP: Chain migration, by the way, is the phrase for families that reunify through legal immigration. More immediate is the concern for people seeking asylum at the southern border. Republican Congressman Will Hurd represents much of that border in Texas, and he's on the line once again.
Congressman, welcome back to the program.
WILL HURD: Hey, Steve. Thanks for having me on.
INSKEEP: We've had reporting on the program here. You've got officials overwhelmed with asylum-seekers and others - don't even know where to detain them. But many things are happening at once, I know. So would you define the problem that most needs addressing here?
HURD: Sure. So I was just at El Paso, which is dealing with some of the most significant problems. And what is happening is indeed a crisis. And why is it a crisis? Last month in March, we had over 100,000 people try to come to this country illegally. To give some context to that number, last year, 400,000 people tried to come illegally over the entire year.
INSKEEP: Now it's coming faster. OK. Or they're coming..
HURD: Now it's coming - it's coming faster. So you have to understand all the steps in dealing with illegal immigration at the border. You have Border Patrol; these are the people that deal in between ports of entry. You have CBP, which manages the ports of entry. You have HHS, who deals with the children. You have USCIS, which deals with handling some asylum.
People are taking advantage of the asylum process, so that's one step. The long-term issue that needs to be addressed is the root causes that are causing people to leave the Northern Triangle - that's El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
INSKEEP: Well, let's go to that, if I can - because as you know, Congressman, President Trump has said he wants to cut off aid to those Central American countries because they are failing to stop the flow. Is that an appropriate step?
HURD: Well, when we say cut off aid, there's two kinds of aid. When you send aid to State Department and USAID, that is going to the State Department. And they're working with civil society, with organizations that are working against violence and economic opportunity.
HURD: And in the Northern Triangle case, you have stuff going directly to the government. We should be making sure we're auditing all of those programs. I was there recently looking at those steps to address the violence and lack of economic opportunities in the Northern Triangle. We should be having a discussion on asylum laws. Using 1950s asylum law is not going to solve the root problems in the Northern Triangle.
INSKEEP: But let me just circle back. I'm sorry. You said you should audit that spending to make sure it's being spent well. That's different than cutting off aid. Should aid just be stopped in retaliation?
HURD: I think if there's specific programs that we think are not working, then you can stop that. But just stopping wholesale is going to exacerbate the problem because these countries - like, that is what's causing the folks coming here. And this is not just a U.S. problem or a Mexico problem; this is a Western Hemisphere problem. We need the Organization of American States to get involved. We need everybody to work towards solving the violence and economic problems there in the Northern Triangle.
My fear is in this month, in April, we're going to see more people coming. And as you began in the lead-up to this conversation Border Patrol is overwhelmed, CBP is overwhelmed, ICE is overwhelmed. Our civil society groups that are working to help the people that are here illegally are overwhelmed. The cities are starting to get overwhelmed. And I'm - I'm fearful that that's going to ultimately lead to loss of life. And in Texas, it's starting to get hotter. And that's going to add another factor to - to complicate the problem that's there.
INSKEEP: Let me...
HURD: We need...
INSKEEP: Let me just...
HURD: ...More individuals. We need workers in all - on those elements in order to deal with this demand. We...
INSKEEP: More personnel. So let me just ask about one other thing before I run out of time here, Congressman, because you made some news the other day. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, including you, signed a letter - all of you - demanding that your Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff, resign after the Mueller report. Why was that appropriate to do?
HURD: Well, I - I thought it was appropriate for the last 22 months. You had folks in positions of power using innuendo and claiming that something was there. And they were implying that, based on their position, they had access to information that other people didn't have access to. And in the last 22 months, they had the opportunity to bring that forward.
I actually - you know, Steve, I've spent 9 1/2 years as an undercover officer in the CIA. And after 22 months, the intelligence communities have been, you know, dragged through the mud. They've been abused. And we need to get back to our oversight role. And the chairman of the committee is chairman of the entire committee, not just one party. And that's why I joined my colleagues and...
INSKEEP: You think that Adam Schiff was too partisan and made too many extreme statements. But I have to observe, Congressman, that also signing that letter is Devin Nunes, the former Republican chairman who was so compromised as a partisan for President Trump that he had to recuse himself and still went on after recusing himself. Is it credible to say that the other side is partisan here?
HURD: Yes 'cause, at the end of the day, it looks like all of the things Devin Nunes has been saying has been true. You know, the committee came to the conclusion that there was no collusion with - with Russia. And that is - you know, 22 months...
INSKEEP: The Republican majority on the committee said no collusion. But of course, William Barr says the special counsel's report found no criminal conspiracy, which is different.
HURD: Well, it's - the reality is that Bob Mueller found no evidence that the president or the people around the president were conspiring with the Russians to manipulate the election. And here's what - here's the other thing that I'm nervous with is that there's innuendo to suggest that the Republicans do not agree that the Russians tried to manipulate our elections. We made it very clear...
INSKEEP: About 10 seconds.
HURD: ...Russians, Democrats - excuse me, Republicans, Democrats all agree that the Russians tried to manipulate our election. They're going to continue to do that, and we need to be working towards stopping that, not only here but with our allies.
INSKEEP: Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, always a pleasure. Thanks so much.
HURD: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. 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.