McALLEN--Monday afternoon U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) and State Senator Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) met with press to discuss the state of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), border security and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Cuellar attended a White House meeting Tuesday with 20 other members of congress and the Trump administration on immigration policy and border security.
In September, the president rescinded DACA and gave congress until March to reach an agreement. Until then, the fate of the so-called “dreamers” is uncertain, and many have already begun losing protections.
“They’re the types of individuals that we need because over 90 percent of them are working, in school or in the military,” Cuellar said of DACA recipients.
In the discussion about border security--which will most likely be attached to any DACA resolution--the congressman said he told the president: “If you want to stop drugs, most of them are coming from the ports of entry. So it’s important that we have enough Customs and Border Patrol personnel and the right technology and infrastructure to do that.”
What makes this issue so difficult to negotiate, he said, was the fact that some Democrats want a clean DACA bill--with no border security measures attached--while many Republicans don’t want DACA, just border security.
Cuellar said he would not settle for a border wall, at least not the way it’s been proposed.
“If we do go for a levee wall, and I’ve told Border Patrol Chief Padilla this, I don’t want it going through any of the refugees,” he said. “A wall should be a last resort, but in Washington they want to use it first because it’s a good political talking point.”
Another thing that makes reaching agreements on these issues so difficult is the temperament of the president, Cuellar said.
“This is a president that changes his mind,” he said. “That’s what makes it hard. The thing is, you think you have an agreement then he’ll say something different. I’ve never seen anything like this, I’ve got to say.”
But deadlines are approaching. Most importantly, the government spending deadline this Friday. Some Democrats are considering shutting down the government in the case that a resolution isn’t met. Cuellar doesn’t think that’s the right approach, but said reaching an agreement by Jan. 19 is “possible.”
“A lot of Democrats are willing to shut down the government because of DACA, but I don’t want to shut down the government over any issue,” he said.