Congressman Duncan Hunter, author of last year’s border fence bill, reacts to this year’s Senate compromise.
HH: Now, I’m joined by Congressman Duncan Hunter of the Armed Services Committee. Congressman Hunter, what do you make of the Senate deal?
DH: Well, from what we’ve seen of the deal, it’s a bad thing. I would, if I was president, I would veto it. And specifically, I wrote the law that mandates the 854 mile border fence, It’s been advertised as 700 plus miles, but if you add up the actual mileages that were mandated, these smugglers’ routes, it’s 854 miles.
HH: Is that double fencing, Congressman Hunter?
DH: That’s double fencing. 854 miles of double fencing, and you know it works in San Diego, it’s knocked back smuggling by more than 90%.
HH: Of course it works. When people tell me, you know, a ten foot fence, bring an eleven foot ladder, they’re idiots.
DH: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting, the Governor of Arizona says that, and then she says in the same press conference, doggone those Californians, they fenced their areas, and now everybody’s coming through Arizona. So in one breath, she’s saying that the fence doesn’t work, and the second breath is it’s working too well.
HH: So what do you make of the idea that oh, we’re just going to use it as a trigger once the 350 miles are built, that will trigger something? I haven’t seen the text of the law. No one has. So I’m very, very skeptical, but what do you think?
DH: Here’s what I’m afraid of. It’s been six months since the President signed my border fence bill. 854 miles passed the House overwhelmingly, passed the Senate by 80-19 in October. The President signed it October 26th. In fact, I talked to him just about an hour ago, and I told him that the latest data that I’ve gotten, and this was a couple of weeks ago from Homeland Security, was that only a couple of miles of that 854 miles have been constructed. I’m worried that if they put this 370 miles in, that’s going to end up being the ceiling, being the limit to the fence that we’ve constructed, roughly half, or in fact, less than half, of what was in my original bill. So in theory…but the other thing is, even if you accept that, that they will do 370 miles with the intent at some point to do more of it later, what they’re saying is we’re going to fence half of the smuggling corridors, where thousands of people are coming in illegally right now, we’re going to accompany that with a whole new set of benefits for people that are here illegally, and we’re not going to expect the entire world to stampede for America’s borders. And of course, they’ll stampede for America’s borders. First, they have no respect for the law, because we’ve proven that we don’t really mean the law, if we put another amnesty in place. So they’ll be stampeding for America’s borders, and we’ll have, by the Senate’s own admission, only half of the smugglers’ corridors actually sealed up at that point.
HH: Well now, Congressman Hunter, I don’t know if we’ve got 41 votes in the Senate to stop this. What’s your assessment?
DH: Well, I would hope that we do. I mean, you know, the Senate can’t have such a deaf ear with respect to the American public. And it’s interesting. We’re not talking simply about border states. Everybody in this country now understands that first, from a security standpoint, since 9/11, the importance of having an enforceable border, but secondly, you know, I think if you had an enforceable border right now, every single state in the Union would see its crime rate go down, and I think people understand that. There’s 250,000 hard core criminals in federal, state and local penitentiaries and jails. We have a massive burden on the social system right now. And you know, when I was in Iowa, I saw, when they swept out all those folks from the Swift Packing Company, those 800 plus people who were there illegally, immediately you had, I’m told, native Iowans waiting in line to get their jobs back at $18 bucks an hour. So the idea that people that come in illegally don’t take American jobs is absolutely not accurate.
HH: Congressman, I want to go back to the fence. Is it your opinion, and you are the author of this bill, that the 854 miles that you got through, would do the job or 90% of the job of stemming the cross-border flow?
DH: Yes, yes, it would do 90% of the job, because it would make the smuggling of people very, very difficult for the smugglers. They’d have all the urban areas fenced, they’d have the flat areas where they can drive people through in high numbers fenced, and we’d be able to concentrate our border patrol at the gaps, and then we could finish the fence.
HH: Now I know you probably don’t agree with this. I would support a bill that did whatever. I really don’t care about the regularization of the people who are here, if they built the 854 miles first. And I think a vast, vast majority of Americans would as well. Why won’t they do that?
DH: You know, I think some folks in the administration have wanted to sit on the fence, literally, not build the fence, but sit on that program, drag their feet, until the Senate came with this bill, so that they could march them along together, because think about this. Six months ago, we passed a mandate to build 854 miles of fence. Why would it then be necessary for the Senate, six months later, to put in a provision saying this time, we really promise to build half the fence, if you couple that with a lot of benefits for folks that are here illegally? In other words, they used the conservative desire to get this border enforced, they held that back so that they could pair it up with what liberals want, which is to have lots of benefits for people that here illegally.
HH: I understand that, but then they didn’t give it to us, Congressman. I mean, that’s…
DH: No, they didn’t give us that, either.
HH: So why wouldn’t they?
DH: But I think they held the construction of the fence back so that that would be an enticement.
HH: I understand that point, but why, having done that in order to make this more palatable, why wouldn’t they give us the whole fence?
DH: Well, that’s a great point, and I think they don’t intend to. I think that they want to have simply 370 miles. I think that, in the end, will end up being not only the ceiling, or the floor of this deal, but the ceiling.
HH: It’s not going to get built, Congressman. I found an article in Mother Jones from the environmentalists saying we’ll kill all the species if we build this fence. I don’t think it’s going to get built.
DH: Well, here’s what I can tell you. I built the San Diego fence with an adverse Clinton Administration that dragged their feet, that fought it, that didn’t want to do it, and I wrote exactly the same words in the bill that mandated the 854 miles, and said it shall be built. Now…
HH: Notwithstanding any other law?
DH: I think it’s going to be tougher for them to take this thing apart. And if the American people will make lots of phone calls, I think we’ll be able to continue with the fence. We’re going to have to hold their feet to the fire, because this administration, this Department of Homeland Security, has really, really taken the slow roll on the border fence.
HH: Now John McCain made a statement earlier. I want to play it for you, Duncan Hunter. Here is Senator McCain on this terrible, terrible bill.
JM: This is the first step. We can and must complete this legislation sooner rather than later. We all know that this issue can be caught up in extracurricular politics, unless me move forward as quickly as possible. This is a product of a long, hard trail of negotiation, and I’m sure that there are certain provisions that each of us would not agree with. But this is what the legislative process is all about, this is what bipartisanship is about, when there’s a requirement for this nation, and its security that transcends party lines. I’m proud to have been a small part of it.
HH: Your reaction, Congressman Duncan Hunter?
DH: Yeah, first, there hasn’t been a focus on security, because a focus on security would have mandated the construction of a border fence immediately. We could have put it up in six months. So people did not care in the Senate or in the White House about border security. But secondly, this ignores every part of human nature. Human nature is to get in under the wire, get in before the door closes, and this will cause a stampede for America’s borders, because there will be perceived benefits to be had on the other side. And the idea that we are going to create these benefits, and that people around the world will pull up on their websites the fine print that the fine U.S. Senate has put down, saying now this time, we really mean it, we don’t want anybody else to come in illegally, that will be ignored, just as people ignored after the 1986 amnesty, all the fine print that said from now on, we’re going to enforce the rule of law. What this does is give people around the world a total disrespect for American law, because they feel that we don’t care about the law.
HH: Let me read to you Mayor Giuliani’s statement. This is from his communications director, by the way. Rudy’s top priority and main objective is to ensure our borders are secure, and stop potential terrorists and criminals from coming in. The recent Fort Dix plot is a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism has made immigration an important matter of national security. We need to know who is coming in and who’s going out to this country, and we are going to deal with those who are here illegally. That really doesn’t tell me anything about what he thinks about this bill, Congressman.
DH: I think that means that the Mayor is still contemplating the bill, and will come up with a definitive statement later.
HH: Will you be offering amendments to make sure that the fence, all 854 miles, be constructed before anything else happens?
HH: Will those pass a Democratically-controlled House?
DH: Probably not. And that is why what we need to do right now is enforce existing law. We have existing law that mandates the construction of the border fence.
HH: But what we really need to do is get the Senate to stop this.
DH: Absolutely. And what we need to do is have millions of Americans go to their telephones right now and call House members, as well as Senate members, right now, call your Senator, call your Representative, tell them you don’t like it, and tell them that you’re going to watch this vote, and this vote is going to be very important to your decisions with respect with who you’re going to vote for in the next election.
HH: Congressman Hunter, what’s your website?
HH: www.gohunter08.com. Very quickly, how’s your boy doing in Afghanistan?
DH: Well, he leaves on the 23rd to go over, and he’s down right now in North Carolina, and I’m going to be driving down as soon as we can get these guys to stop talking, and leave the House of Representatives floor. I’m going to get in my car and head down and see him.
HH: Well, tell him thank you for his service, from everyone listening to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Congressman Hunter, always a pleasure, talk to you again soon.
End of interview.