Border politicians opposed to Trump’s wall

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Border politicians opposed to Trump’s wall

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Media captionFive questions about Trump’s border wall

Politicians in Washington have had a lot to say about the merits or otherwise of a border wall thousands of miles away. But why are so many lawmakers based there against it?

There are nine members of the House of Representatives whose districts lie along the US-Mexico border.

It is perhaps not surprising that the eight Democrats oppose President Donald Trump’s signature campaign pledge.

But the one Republican congressman – whose district stretches for 820 miles (1,320km) along the border – is also hostile.

Most of his party, including some senators and governors of states at the border, back the president.

These nine House representatives have intimate knowledge of the border and the issues arising from the movement of people – legal or otherwise – across it.

So what have they said?

Will Hurd, Texas Republican

“I think building a concrete structure sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” said Will Hurd, a Republican congressman whose district has the longest border with Mexico.

Congressman Hurd’s 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from El Paso to Antonio, shares the largest border with Mexico of any member of Congress.

Mr Hurd, a former CIA agent who happens to be the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, has argued for a “smart border wall” which would be composed of sensors and other technology.

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Will Hurd meets with constituents at the Fiesta San Antonio in 2017

“A Smart Wall would use sensor, radar and surveillance technologies to detect and track incursions across our border so we can deploy efficiently our most important resource, the men and women of Border Patrol, to perform the most difficult task – interdiction,” he wrote in an op-ed in 2017.

Mr Hurd, who broke rank with Republicans to vote on a Democratic-led bill to reopen government, said after Mr Trump’s speech on Tuesday: “If this is a crisis, the people that are dealing with this crisis should get paid.”

Federal workers who are deemed “essential” such as border patrol agents, have been forced to work without pay as the shutdown continues.

Vicente Gonzalez, Texas Democrat

“It’s a 4th Century solution to a 21st Century problem,” said Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes the border town of McAllen, which Trump plans to visit during the funding impasse.

“Nobody wants stronger border control than me,” he told CBS.

But he opposes adding to the existing border wall because he does not “think it brings real border security and it comes at a major cost to taxpayers”.

Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat

Congressman Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas’ 8th congressional district, believes $4bn is needed to modernise ports of entry, not for a wall which he says would only delay migrants by “a few minutes or a few seconds”.

He adds that modern telecommunications for border agents, and funding to help Mexico secure its own southern border, would also be helpful.

Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona Democrat

The new Arizona congresswoman took office in early January as the representative for Arizona’s 2nd District and has pledged not to vote for border wall funding.

“We don’t want a wall in southern Arizona. A third of our economy comes from Mexico. We want to build bridges not walls,” she told Arizona Public Media as she was sworn in.

Raúl Grijalva, Arizona Democrat

Mr Grijalva has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump’s proposal.

“Not a single cent should go to funding Trump’s monument to hate,” he tweeted after Mr Trump addressed the nation on primetime TV to argue that there is a “crisis” at the border.

“This is a terrible, terrible mistake that Trump is making,” he told CBS, calling it “a fantasy” and “not a solution”.

“It would be devastating to my district,” said Mr Grijalva, whose own father came emigrated from Mexico in the 1940s.

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Media captionTrump v Democrats on the border wall and government shutdown

Veronica Escobar, Texas Democrat

In her first act as a newly elected member of Congress, Veronica Escobar of Texas’ 16th District chose to cast her vote for “Nancy ‘no wall’ Pelosi” – the Democratic House leader who has opposed budgeting for Mr Trump’s wall.

“Donald Trump is trying to portray border communities as these open, lawless areas where a wall will solve problems,” she said in a Twitter video for MoveOn.org, a Democratic advocacy group.

Mrs Escobar, who represents the border city of El Paso, blamed Republicans for wrongly and “needless fear mongering about communities like mine”.

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Walls and fences already cover many miles of the US border

Juan Vargas, California Democrat

Congressman Juan Vargas, who has represented California’s 51st District for the last five years, said there is no crisis where he lives along the border.

“I live along the border, about a little over 10 miles from the border. It’s San Diego. I mean, it’s basically paradise,” he told CNN. “The notion that we have a crisis there, security crisis, is absolute nonsense.”

“The reality is, yes, there are people sneaking into our country,” Mr Vargas said. “We can stop that if we have smart solutions, and that’s only going to be reliant on technology.”

Xochitl Torres Small, New Mexico Democrat

New Mexico’s newly elected Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small visited the border earlier this week with other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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Xochitl Torres Small

While visiting a Border Patrol station where a Guatemalan migrant child died on Christmas Eve, she called for first responders along remote and rural areas of the border to carry emergency medical equipment.

“The border is my home, and I am committed to fighting for and implementing policies which will help to make it #strong #smart and #fair,” she tweeted after the visit.

Filemon Vela Jr, Texas Democrat

Texas Congressman Filemon Vela Jr has said in the past that he agrees with President Trump on trying to tackle the Mexican drug cartels and deporting criminals.

But he is deeply opposed to the wall.

In a scathing open letter to candidate Trump in 2016, he said: “Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighbouring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine.”

been an outspoken critic of Mr Trump’s immigration policies, and criticised his decision before the mid-term elections in November to deploy troops to the border, which he said “inspired white national vigilantes” to flood the region.

After US troops arrived in Brownsville, a city he represents, he condemned their defensive manoeuvres as “direct attacks on our border economy [which] provide no security value whatsoever”.

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