In fiscal year 2018, there were approximately 396,579 apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the southwest border of the United States, according to Pew Research. The organization estimates that there are roughly 10.5 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States today.
Despite efforts by the Trump administration to enhance border security, and by Republicans to draft legislation that would help resolve the crisis, little has been accomplished.
Although Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), who represents Texas’ Second Congressional District, has only been in office since January 2019, he’s already made waves in multiple policy debates, including those which impact the illegal immigration and border crisis.
On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak with Rep. Crenshaw about these issues. In part one of this two-part interview, Crenshaw discusses specific actions that need to be taken to secure the border, prior failures by politicians to reach a deal on immigration, the wildly divergent immigration philosophies of conservatives and progressives, and how social media can help Republicans reach voters.
DW: What is the first thing that the United States needs to do to fix the immigration crisis?
CRENSHAW: The Number one priority is to enforce the laws we have – if I had to say generally what we need to do. Enforcement is the key because enforcement is a deterrent and everything else follows from that.
Some reforms we need to make, the Flores Settlement, I’m sure you’re familiar with, says that we can’t hold any children, whether they’re with their parents or without their parents past 20 days. What this creates is a situation where we can never adjudicate the case. So whether that case is a 1325 violation, crossing the border illegally, or whether that is an asylum case, we can’t adjudicate it. We have a system that requires that we let family units go into the population, into the United States, before we can actually adjudicate their case. Then we have to rely on their goodwill to show up for their court case, and then agree to be deported when we say that, “Well, you don’t actually have a valid asylum claim,” or, “You are in violation of 1325.” People know this.
Here’s an important date to know. It was 2017 when Flores was actually redefined from the 1997 agreement to include family units. Before, it was just unaccompanied minors, but it became family units. This was a signal to everybody south of the border that they should bring a kid with them, and then they would basically be let go for sure inside the United States. That’s a huge deal. You have to hold people long enough to adjudicate those claims, and then you need to have the resources to adjudicate the clients. By that, I mean immigration judges and holding facilities in order to do that. Simply, I’m just saying that we need to enforce the law.
DW: What are the key problems with the border that, if addressed, would solve the immigration crisis (aside from enforcing law)?
CRENSHAW: The Flores settlement specifically would be, I think, the number one thing. Number two would be additional resources to adjudicate those claims – immigration judges and detention facilities. Number three, the technology and infrastructure for the border patrol to catch all the people who don’t want to be caught – wall and technology.
DW: Some claim that the Republican Party doesn’t actually care about the issue, but simply wants to have it as a weapon for future elections. What are your thoughts on that?
CRENSHAW: I just don’t agree with that premise at all. I’m not sure who says that. I can see that coming from the trackers on the Left who are trying to undercut our basic arguments, but I just don’t think [that’s valid]. The next question would be, “Okay, well you guys had the Senate, the House, and the presidency, and you didn’t solve this.” Well, the reason was there, and it’s a fair criticism – of course, not against me because I wasn’t there – but it’s a fair criticism. However, the reason it happened wasn’t because nobody wanted to solve it. The reason it happened was probably because we didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate, first of all. It’s not filibuster proof. Two, I think they tried to get too much out of that deal, and for maybe the more moderate Republicans, that was, I think, untenable. I don’t know the inside baseball of how those conversations played out, but I think we made “perfect” the enemy of “good,” and that’s the unfortunate part. But this theory that in secret Republican politicians don’t want this problem solved, that’s just complete nonsense.
DW: What do you believe is preventing Democratic politicians from really sitting down with Republicans to address the issue of immigration in any meaningful way?
CRENSHAW: We have two different philosophies. I think as a conservative, we generally believe in the sovereignty of a nation. That’s an important tenet of our belief system. The Democratic Party doesn’t hold that as strongly, at least, and as of recently, they’ve developed totally different policy goals. If you have the same goal, but different ways of getting to that goal, you can compromise. You can imagine a lot of policy issues where that’s true – alleviating poverty for instance. But when your goals are actually different, then it becomes impossible to compromise, so we get fought at every turn. When we were negotiating during the government shutdown, it was really unbelievable to see what Democrats would fight against, like more detention facility space for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). You have to question, why are you fighting against this? I mean, these are literal resources for law enforcement.
They’re not arguing against changing the law, they just want it to be enforced less. “What’s your end goal here?” You really have to ask that question. If your end goal is more illegal immigrants being free within the United States; when you don’t want to build any kind of barriers on the southern border – what is your end goal? That’s why there can’t be compromise, because it’s not clear what they want at all, and it’s changed radically over time. That’s something that I try to help Democratic voters understand, because Democrats, as voters, are not in favor of open borders, at least not in my experience, but the actions of their politicians, the Democratic politicians, are very clearly open borders. Even Tulsi Gabbard thinks so.
DW: Speaking of getting people to understand, you’ve used social media really effectively to break down ideology and issues, most recently with your border video on Instagram. You seem to be one of very few on the Republican side who really engage on social media like that. Is that something that needs to change if conservatism, specifically related to the border issue, is going to remain viable?
CRENSHAW: Yeah, I think so. I would love to see our Republican leadership do these videos a lot more. Not just our leadership, I mean our politicians, I mean our forward thinkers. Lay out the facts in a coherent way. Talk to the people, not at the people.
So, there’s a tone issue there that I think we could do better with. Simply just lay it out. Lay out the other side’s argument and then lay out why it’s wrong. That’s what people want to hear. What we often do instead is just repeat our own talking points, and it leaves people wondering, “Okay, but the other side said this. You didn’t address that.” Well, why don’t we just address it from the beginning? I’m always skeptical of just using talking points. I like to use the other side’s talking points, frankly, and then explain in layman’s terms why I disagree with those, and why they’re just fundamentally untrue. The purpose of using social media is to use it as a conversation with people. I think that’s what we try to do.
The Instagram video referenced above can be watched here:
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