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Rep. Hurd Calls For A Narrow Focus To Address Immigration


So what happens now to immigrants brought illegally as children to the U.S. who are set to lose their protection to remain here? President Trump says he favors a path to citizenship for people who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He does want a lot in return - billions for a border wall and limits to legal immigration. White House legislative director Marc Short tells CBS it's a bipartisan plan.


MARC SHORT: He's offered a very rational compromise to get it done. This was born out of many conversations with Democrats alike and Republicans to get to this point. It's actual - will help us get it done and protect us, so we don't have this problem several years from now.

INSKEEP: But the president's notion is one of several ideas. A bipartisan deal has fallen apart before. And only weeks remain before the DACA program expires by the president's own order. Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas represents about 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. And he's on the line via Skype. Congressman, welcome back to the program.

WILL HURD: Hey, Steve - always a pleasure to be on.

INSKEEP: If the president's plan were to be brought up before the House, do you think it would pass?

HURD: I think elements of it could pass the House. I'm pleased that the president further refined what he's looking for in a potential bipartisan deal. But I believe the best way forward is still a narrow solution. Fix DACA. Have some strong border security because the broader you get this thing, you start creating these coalitions of opposition to this deal. And Congress has proven over the last couple of years doing comprehensive and partisan is not the way to go. So let's try something different - narrow and bipartisan.

INSKEEP: Well, let's just be really clear about what you'd want to leave in and out. Fix DACA, you said - so pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. A little bit of border security - so maybe some sensor technology or whatever. But you're not talking about money for the wall, and you're not talking about limiting legal immigration, which the president also wants to do.

HURD: That's pretty correct. But I would say our border security solution is pretty broad. We should allow the men and women in Border Patrol to have the tools that they need. Every mile of the border is different than others. And so our bill would not preclude physical barriers. But our bill is also not an appropriations bill. You know, you have authorizations, and you have appropriations. And the USA Act, which I've been working on with Pete Aguilar from California - a Democrat from California - would be the appropriations. And this allows us to vote on ultimately spending bills and things that we - possibly have already come out of the House.

INSKEEP: OK. So you want to authorize better border security, which might take a variety of forms. Although, I think from talking with you in the past, you're no fan of walls, are you?

HURD: (Laughter) No. I'm not. I think building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. But also, it's 2018. And we do not have operational control of the border. And so we should. And the technology exists where we can tell the difference between a person and a bunny rabbit coming across the border. We can deploy a small drone to track something or a threat. And then you deploy your most important resource to men and women, a border patrol. And all that information you are collecting from those sensors could be beamed back to our men and women in Border Patrol. Some folks think that we're using that kind of technology on the border now. We're not.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask about another element of this. You said that you would favor fixing DACA. And the form that fix is taking in the president's plan is an eventual path to citizenship for well over 1 million people - I believe something like 1.8 million people who might be eligible for this program. Ted Cruz, Republican senator - your fellow Republican, your fellow Texan - said that this is a serious mistake and added that the people of Texas - your state - don't support it. Is it correct that the people of Texas would not support a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and others?

HURD: Most of the people that I've been talking to and dealing with in Texas do recognize the need to have some kind of legal status. And this is not providing a special pathway to folks that are in the DACA category. They can have legal status just like many other folks that are in our country - LPR, a legal permanent resident. And then you can transition from that legal permanent resident status to citizenship if you meet a certain criteria.

And there should be a - you know, when you go from DACA, which is a temporary status, to LPR, which is a permanent status, you have to hit some criteria. And in the USA Act, the bill I've been working on, you know, it's one of three triggers. You've done at least two years of additional schooling from high school. You have served in the military - you know, you served a tour in the military. Or you've been working for 80 percent of the time. And so those are the things that transitions you from temporary to legal.

INSKEEP: Congressman, I have to ask about one of the things that's facing your party at the moment. Steve Wynn has resigned as Republican National Committee finance chairman. He's somebody who's given to Republicans for many years in the amounts of millions of dollars. Now, he's given money to Democrats, too - he's a businessman - but lots of money to Republicans. Should your party and should elected officials in your party be giving that money back now that Wynn has been accused of sexual harassment and much worse?

HURD: Well, I don't know Steve Wynn. I've never met him. And, you know, sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable. It shouldn't be in any business. It shouldn't be in politics. And, you know, this should be - it should be very clear. And I'm glad that - you know, I'm glad that this is becoming clearer across the country in all industries.

INSKEEP: But should the money be given back?

HURD: I think that those entities have to make those decisions.

INSKEEP: Meaning the Republican Party - your party?

HURD: Yeah. I think many different organizations have potentially gotten that money. And so the various organizations need to make that decision.

INSKEEP: You didn't get any?

HURD: I did not.

INSKEEP: OK. Congressman Hurd, thank you very much.

HURD: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Will Hurd of Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.