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Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador On Immigration Reform Percolating In The House Again

Thursday, October 24, 2013
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HH: News made today when it was announced that Congressman Darrell Issa is going to try and introduce an immigration bill. One of the people who he will have to sit down and chat with is Congressman Raul Labrador of the 1st Congressional District in Idaho, as he has been one of the point people for Speaker Boehner on this effort. Congressman Labrador joins us again. Welcome back, Congressman, good to talk to you.

RL: Great to be on your show. How are you doing?

HH: I’m terrific. What do you think about Darrell’s announcement about the new immigration bill?

RL: You know, we’re looking at the bill right now. Darrell has been a long term proponent of immigration reform. He’s a good guy. He was my chairman. I’m not on his committee anymore, but I’ve enjoyed working with him, so I’m definitely interested in his ideas.

HH: And what’s in the bill that we should be aware of, and your initial reaction to them?

RL: You know, initially, what he’s talking about is just granting a legal status, no pathway to citizenship, but a legal status to people that are here for a period of six years. And then during that period of six years, if I understand the bill correctly, then they have to find a way to either become legal permanent residents through the appropriate way, or they’re not going to be, their status is not going to be renewed. But like I said, it’s something fresh. My staff actually had a briefing on it today, and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about the bill.

HH: What’s your initial reaction to it, Congressman Labrador? You have been so deep in the negotiations that have apparently shipwrecked. What do you think about this effort?

RL: You know, I think it’s good that somebody’s coming up with an idea. I’m not sure that I can support the entire idea, but until I really look at it, I can’t really tell. But he has some really good components. I think one of the keys is making sure that we find a way to normalize the status of the people that are here without granting them a special pathway to citizenship. And I think that’s a concept that his bill actually is adopting. So I think that’s something really strong. I still believe that we need to have some triggers in the law that require law enforcement and interior enforcement to be stronger before anybody receives any kind of benefits, and I’m just not sure that his bill has that.

HH: And does his bill have any additional mandated double fencing on the border?

RL: I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

HH: And you see, I don’t understand how anyone expects to get anything through Congress that doesn’t address the southern border, and of course, the visa problem. But the most obvious thing is that double sided fencing over hundreds of miles, isn’t it?

RL: Yeah, well, you have the fencing, which is important. I mean, you know, I just did a tour of the border a couple of months ago, and I went to two different states. And we have some areas where you can’t put a double fence. you know, when you’re going up into the mountains and the hills. But what they have, which is pretty amazing, they have these virtual fences. They have drones and other forms of figuring out what’s happening at the border, and I think that’s good. But I really think that, Hugh, that the biggest component of immigration reform has to be interior enforcement.

HH: Boy, do I…

RL: We have to be allowing the local law enforcement agents to aid the immigration enforcement agents. If we don’t allow that, if we don’t allow the local law enforcement to actually participate in immigration enforcement, we’re never going to get control of our immigration problems.

HH: Boy, do I disagree with you, Congressman.

RL: Really?

HH: And for this simple reason. The border’s 2,000 miles long. It needs, probably, give or take a hundred miles, a thousand miles of double-sided fencing. It’s sort of the obvious first, if you’re having a robot, you’ve got to have legs for mobility. You’ve got to build that fence first. And nobody believes you guys, not you personally, but nobody believes the Congress is serious about border security. And unless and until you have the external manifestation of an internal resolve, all the laws, it’s just sort of like the Obamacare website. Why would be believe anything you guys pass would work if the most obvious thing that is needed, the double-sided fencing, isn’t built?

RL: Well, we have double-sided fencing, and we have it in many areas of the border. We need to make sure that we complete it in the areas that it is necessary. I don’t think you can have a double-sided fence all the way across the border.

HH: Of course not. It’s…

RL: You’re going to spend billions and billions of dollars where you can actually do the same thing with manpower, and you can do it with technology. Now I don’t disagree. There are certain areas. If you go to San Diego, for example, where I spent a day, that double border, double-sided fence is extremely important, because it’s a highly-populated area, heavily populated, where you are actually preventing people from coming in. And it’s being used as a way to prevent those people from coming across the border.

HH: Yeah, wherever it is…

RL: And the areas where you have a double-sided fence, and it’s not going to do much if you don’t have the manpower, and you don’t have the technology that’s necessary to stop them.

HH: But wherever it is, in El Paso, in San Diego, it works. There are about 70 miles of it, by my understanding of it. There need to be at least 700, probably closer to 1,000. The border’s 2,000 miles long. Obviously, we don’t have to do the whole border. But the technology…

RL: Well, we have about 700 miles.

HH: No, we don’t. We have 700 miles of fencing, most of which is single, and most of which is movable, and some of which are those little traffic control things that you can move out of the way. I’ve spent a lot of time on this, because I don’t want to urge people to get upset about stuff that’s not there. But whenever I hear congressmen, good, solid conservatives like you sort of avoiding that issue, I think to myself you’ll never sell the country. It’s not that expensive. It’s pretty easy. But I belabor the point. I want to go back to what happened to the multiparty talks that collapsed in the House. Why did they fall apart on immigration?

RL: You know, the main reason is when you actually referenced just a few minutes ago, it’s the lack of trust. When you have a President who has no credibility anymore with us, when you’re in negotiations where you’re talking to Democrats about how we can actually come to some solution to the immigration problem, but you’re finding out that the President liked the Senate deal better than he liked anything that we were negotiating in the House, and he wanted the House to just not be successful, it makes it difficult for us to actually negotiate in good faith. And that was the main problem that we had with immigration, because I agree with you. We may disagree on some of the details, but the key is to make sure that we have actual triggers that fix the immigration problems that we have right now.

HH: Because I don’t think anyone objects…

RL: We need to ensure that we deal with border security first, with interior security, and then we can talk about whether we’re going to talk about whether we’re going to grant people a legal status or not. And all the conversations in the Senate and in the Congress have been about granting a legal status first, and then doing something later about enforcement. And I just can’t agree with that.

HH: And I agree with you, and I don’t think I know one out of twenty Republicans who object to regularization. They just don’t. But they want it combined with the assurances and the specifics to prevent it from happening again. Of all your colleagues on the Republican side, of those who were on the working group, was anyone opposed to regularization short of citizenship for the vast majority of people who are in the country illegally?

RL: Hugh, there are a number of Republicans, but I think it’s a small number. I don’t think that, the issue is, really, about pathway to citizenship. And people like myself have said that there should be no special pathway to citizenship. What I believe we should have is that normalization, a regularization of their status, and then if they can apply for legal permanent residence like anybody else can apply for it, then I don’t think we should deny them that right. But we shouldn’t give them a special pathway towards that citizenship. We shouldn’t create a special status just for them, because they violated our laws.

HH: Yeah.

RL: I think they should pay a fine, they should be put on a probationary period. And then once they get out of that probationary period, then they can go through the normal process. And if they’re lucky enough to become legal permanent residents, then they can do it, but we shouldn’t require that that be a pathway for them.

HH: I’m telling you, Congressman, when you bless something, I’ll bless something, but I just want to persuade you to put some serious double fencing with a road in between it in there. Congressman Raul Labrador, point man for serious conservatives on immigration reform, thank you, Congressman.

End of interview.

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