Every congressperson along southern border opposes border wall funding
Nine congressional representatives serve the districts that line the 2,000-mile southern border. They are men, women, freshman politicians and Washington veterans. The Democrats among them span liberal ideologies, while one of them is a Republican.
But they all have one thing in common: each is against President Donald Trump's border wall.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a multi-bill package that provided funding for federal agencies and reinstated Department of Homeland Security appropriations without offering any new border wall funding. All nine of the politicians serving in districts along the border voted in favor of the bills, which were an effective rebuke of the Trump administration's request for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.
"It's a 4th-century solution to a 21st century problem," said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat and one of the lawmakers along the southern border who voted against funding the wall.
Gonzalez doesn't oppose border security. He said, "Nobody wants stronger border control than me." But he's against adding to the existing border wall because he doesn't "think it brings real border security and it comes at a major cost to taxpayers," the lawmaker said Tuesday in a telephone interview with CBS News.
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During a private dinner with Mr. Trump last year, the congressman suggested a "virtual border wall," one that would use technology and existing military surveillance equipment currently not in use. But Mr. Trump wasn't interested in non-physical alternatives, Gonzalez said.
"At the time I thought we were going to be able to have a reasonable conversation," Gonzalez said. "I had no idea it was going to get this crazy."
Within Gonzalez's district is McAllen, a Texas border town that Mr. Trump plans to visit during his trip to the border this week. Unlike how areas along the border have been described by other politicians, Gonzalez called McAllen one of the safest towns in the country and said it is experiencing a 33-year low in crime rates. He rejects the idea that there is a crisis at the border.
"When people talk about violence streaming across the border, it's just nonsense," Gonzalez said.
Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican who represents more of the southern border than any other member of Congress, was one of a handful of Republicans to side with Democrats last week on the funding bill.
Hurd, who is the only black Republican in the 116th House of Representatives, won a second term in Congress during the midterms while campaigning against the wall, narrowly winning his re-election. Political strategists have said that Mr. Trump's last-minute, hardline rhetoric around what he called the "border crisis" nearly cost Hurd his seat in Congress.
Prior to the government shutdown, Hurd — a former undercover CIA agent — had introduced another idea: legislation for a "smart border wall," a technology-focused initiative that he claimed would cost less than $1 billion.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona whose district shares a border with Mexico, also opposed funding the wall, calling it "a fantasy" and "not the solution."
"This is a terrible, terrible mistake that Trump is making," said Grijalva, a first-generation Mexican-American whose father came to the U.S. under the 1940s-era Bracero temporary worker program. "It would be devastating to my district."
Grijalva questioned Mr. Trump's description of a "crisis" on the border, saying that if anything, the situation on the border was a "manufactured crisis."
"I think he is wrong politically, and in terms of security, absolutely wrong," Grijalva said.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that there are nine Congressional districts along the United States border with Mexico. A previous version of this story said there were eight.
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