Chairman James H. Scheuer (D-N.Y.) of the House Select Committee on Population did not consult the rest of the committee before he called for a "firm, hard sealing" of the U.S.-Mexico border, two of the panel's members charged yesterday.
Scheuer made the statement Wednesday in interpreting the committee's recommendations for curbing the flow of illegal immigrants in to the United States.
"We advocate a firm, hard sealing of the border" between the United States and Mexico, Scheuer said. "We consider it a quintessential precondition in our emerging new (economic and cultural) relationship with Mexico that the integrity of our borders be protected." He spoke at the Wednesday press conference at which he and rankin minority member John N. Erlenborn (R-I11.) released the committee's report on immigration.
But Resident Commissioner Abltasar Corrada (D-Puerto Rico) and Rep. Paul M. Simon (D-I11) said yesterday that Scheuer was speaking for himself.
"I'm vehemently opposed to sealing the Mexican-U.S. border on practical and humanitarian grounds," Corrada said.
Corrada added: "The recommendation to seal the Mexican-U.S. border is not a recommendation by the select committee and it does not appear in any form in the report."
Simon said the language used by Scheuer in calling for tighter controls along the 1,950-mile border is "a little rougher lanuage than that used in the report." He said it would be "really impractical" to try to seal the border.
"The congressman "Scheuer) was just talking off the top of his head. He has a habit of inserting opinions without consulting anyone," one Corrada aide said.
The pros and cons of sealing the border are discussed in the report but it concludes only that "more rigorous border security is essential."
Scheuer said yesterday he would stand by his "firm, hard sealing of the border" statement.
"I'm glad we etimulated a little conversation on the issue," he said, laughing. However, he said he did not intend to misrepresent the views of his fellow committee members.
"I didn't mean sealing the border in the sense of something being hermetically sealed," Scheuer said. "In the sealed, except maybe in science. . . We don't propose a Berlin Wall."
Meanwhile, members of Shceuer's staff were smarting over the reaction from Hispanics and committee members to their boss' comments.
Said one: "Sometimes, he just opens his mouth. He won't argue at all that he didn't say it. But, perhaps he should have stopped and thought a little beffore he spoke."