Appearing on CNN moments after President Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.) suggested that if there is a crisis at the southern border as the president says, then the federal government should be paying the people on the ground most equipped to address it.
A longtime critic of Trump’s push for a border wall and the only House Republican representing a district on the southern border, Hurd was among a handful of Republican representatives who joined Democrats last week in voting to reopen the government without the president’s requested $5.7 billion in wall funding.
Reacting to Trump’s prime-time address, Hurd told Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight” that “everyone tries to act like this is some scary drug cartel movie back in the day,” even though the border areas are “some of the safest communities in the United States of America.” He said he was disappointed that the president’s address offered nothing new and did not include a plan to reopen the government to allow federal workers — particularly the Border Patrol — to start getting paid again.
Throughout his nine-minute speech, Trump described a “humanitarian crisis” and evoked images of dangerous undocumented immigrants pouring into the country with drugs and committing violent crimes. He addressed the government shutdown a single time, blaming it on the Democrats. The shutdown has now lasted 18 days.
“If this is a crisis,” Hurd said, “the people dealing with this crisis should get paid.”
He added that the “bright spot” of the president’s speech was that he did not declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and build the wall. “Had he done that, it would have been a gross abuse of power,” said Hurd, who won reelection in November by less than one percentage point.
Of the nine members of Congress representing districts on the southern border, not a single one has supported Trump’s push for a wall. Hurd has instead been a proponent of funding a “smart wall,” which would combine various types of technology, such as drones and other surveillance tools, to help Border Patrol agents detect unauthorized border-crossers. Hurd argued Tuesday that border security would also be better served by giving more funding to the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop the flow of illegal drugs at ports of entry, where the majority of drugs enter the country.
Another border-district congressman on Lemon’s show, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), pushed back on Trump’s claim during his speech that Democrats requested he build the wall with steel rather than concrete, clarifying that the Democrats don’t want any wall regardless of the material.
A giant barrier “from sea to shining sea,” Hurd said, “is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security.”
“The reality is, yes, there are people sneaking into our country,” the congressman said. “We can stop that if we have smart solutions, and that’s only going to be reliant on technology.”