In fiscal year 2018, there were approximately 396,579 apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the southern 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 two of this interview, Crenshaw discusses visa overstays, what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants already here, how Republicans can effectively communicate conservative ideas while progressives run the game, how to explain these ideas compassionately, and more.
Before reading on, make sure to check out part one here.
DW: Turning away specifically from the border, what can be done about visa overstays?
CRENSHAW: That’s an interesting question. I think for a lot of voters, they can’t even have that conversation until they feel like their border is secure. That’s always step one, because while you can deal with visa overstays, you still have this influx. It’s like bailing out a rowboat with a big hole in the bottom of it. You’ve got to fix the hole first, and then you’ve got to deal with the water that’s in there. That’s what we’re going to face, hopefully after we finally fix our border problems. The frustrating thing about that is I’ve laid out very clear solutions to fixing the border. We know exactly what to do, and we just need to do it.
Then we have to ask ourselves questions. Okay, what are you going to do with the estimated 10 to 20 million illegal immigrants here? Well, if they’ve been committing some crimes, been in and out of jail, I think the answer is easy. They should be deported. But what about those who aren’t? Okay, what about those who have been here for a while? They’re here illegally. They had a visa. They did it the right way, but they overstayed their visa? You’re not going to round them up and deport them. That’s not realistic. So, what do you do? There are a lot of ideas out there, and I’m not sure which one we eventually fall on, but it involves questions like, do they pay some kind of restitution? They broke the law. Shouldn’t they be punished for that in the form of some kind of fee or fine? Yeah, maybe that’s it. What should that fine be?
Those are the questions we have to ask ourselves. Then what do they get out of that? Do they get an extended visa? How long is that visa extended for? Is it a work visa? Should they ever be eligible for citizenship? I would argue probably not because they broke the law, and there’s no reason to give them a forward place in the line in front of legal immigrants who’ve done it the right way. There’s a sense of justice, I think. There’s the conversation about justice that we have to have here and intertwine that with our sense of reality about what can be done and what the best way forward is.
DW: How can Republicans effectively communicate these ideas to the public while the Democrats are essentially running the narrative game?
CRENSHAW: In all of the same ways that I already discussed. With social media. People like to see the videos on it. People like to have things explained in a conversational tone, and show them. I think that it just gains the trust of people. That’s why I would go to the border and create videos about that. You have to show them. You have to speak to experts, not just me repeating talking points. I’m actually talking to the people who deal with this every single day and providing the facts, and the American people are smart enough to sift through that.
DW: The Left often accuses conservatives of dehumanization on the immigration issue. How can conservatives offer solutions without appearing to dehumanize the situation?
CRENSHAW: That’s a combination of conservatives often using the wrong rhetoric, but also the Left, I think, improperly portraying our rhetoric as well. The consequences have been that it seems as if conservatives vilify illegal immigrants, which is actually why when I point to the problems of an open border, I never say, “Oh, it’s because of the drugs and the crime.” I never say that, because it’s too easy for the Left to say, “Oh, see? That’s how they see immigrants.” It’s not a good look, and it doesn’t help us solve the problem.
What I say is, listen, it’s unsustainable. We have almost a million people crossing illegally a year. It’s not sustainable, and it lacks respect for the sovereignty of our country and the management of our own borders. Also, it cuts in front of the line of legal immigrants. Sorry. None of that is good. None of that is moral. It’s not moral to cut in front of legal immigrants who wanted to do it the right way, so why should we reward that? It’s a better message so that we’re not vilifying people. Let’s assume they’re all great people. That’s not the question. The question is, do we have a system and do we enforce basic rule of law?
DW: So what is your hope over the next, say, decade of policy on this area?
CRENSHAW: My hope is just the solutions that I outlined earlier. You’ve got to fix the border first. We have very clear ideas on how to do that, and it really just comes down to a commitment to law enforcement. That’s what I want to see. Ten years is unfortunately the short term. If we can solve the border issues within the next ten years, then we can finally set the stage for a better conversation about overall immigration reform.
DW: Lastly, is there anything pertaining to the border discussion or immigration discussion that you would want our readership or the public at large to know that we haven’t talked about?
CRENSHAW: I would say this, actually. You’ve seen a drop in illegal immigration crossings over the last couple of months, and people should understand why that is. The first reason, maybe the most insignificant though, is the fact that it was hot out. It’s the summertime. There are fewer crossings during the summer. But more importantly was actually our relationship with Mexico. The Mexican government was doing more to secure their own border, and also the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which is probably the most important part.
The Migrant Protection Protocols, or the “Remain in Mexico” policy, basically allows government to send, I think, about 300 illegal immigrants per day back to await their claims in Mexico. When you do that, you’re creating a huge deterrent. So now there’s a chance – even if it’s a small chance – there’s still a chance that you might do all this work to cross the border illegally and then get sent right back to Mexico. Again, this feeds into the enforcement of our laws, and it creates a big deterrent when we actually do that. It was a small step that the administration was able to take despite no action from Congress, and we should recognize that work on the part of the administration.