Texas GOP lawmaker: Trump wall 'expensive and least effective’ security plan

Texas GOP lawmaker: Trump wall 'expensive and least effective’ security plan
© Greg Nash

Texas Republican Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDem introduces bill to create federal cybersecurity apprenticeship program Koch group launches digital ads in tight Texas House race Gingrich: Bushes view themselves as closer to Obamas, Clintons than to Trump MORE wants the House to tackle an immigration bill that’s “narrow and bipartisan” and devoid of the vast border wall President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE promised during his campaign.

“I've been very clear that building a wall from 'sea to shining sea' is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd told The Hill’s Power Politics podcast in an interview.

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Although Trump has continued to press Congress for more than $25 billion over 10 years for a physical border wall, Hurd said the president “has evolved since the campaign.”

The best border security investments are technology-based, Hurd maintains. To make that point, the congressman invites his House colleagues to tour the border with him.

"I think most Americans think that we are utilizing the latest and greatest technology along the border. We are not,” he said. “A lot of the technology we are using is 20 years old.”

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The San Antonio-based lawmaker spoke days before Congress, with Trump’s signature, embraced a deal to raise budget restrictions on military and domestic spending by $300 billion over two years. The agreement, enacted early Friday, keeps the government operating through March 23, but leaves in limbo immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Trump announced in September that he would rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows certain immigrants to work and go to school here. Trump gave Congress six months to work out a solution for DACA recipients.

The Senate is expected to wrestle with DACA questions next week during a potentially contentious open floor debate. GOP House leaders are less eager to deal with immigration during a midterm election year, despite intense public pressure and multiple shutdown threats from House Democrats.

Hurd, whose multi-ethnic swing district includes 820 miles of rugged terrain along the border with Mexico, is the co-sponsor with Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarKoch group launches digital ads in tight Texas House race House panel moves to bar deportation of military 'Dreamers' Immigration compromise underlines right’s clout MORE (D-Calif.) of the USA Act, which promotes “smart” technology at the border instead of a physical wall, and permanent legal status for DACA recipients.

“This is the only legislation that has real bipartisan support in the House and the Senate,” Hurd said during an interview.

Still, enactment is a long shot. Hurd argued that fixing DACA before March will requires a narrowly tailored bill with bipartisan support. The prospect of cutting off family-based immigration and the diversity visa lottery — among Trump’s immigration demands — “introduces more complications” in both chambers in Congress, he added.

“I think the president wants to see a fix for DACA folks," he said.

Texas is home to the second-largest population of DACA recipients, after California, and about three-quarters of Hurd’s constituents are Hispanic.

"I try to talk about solving real challenges, and not having hard edges," he said. "I believe ... that if the Republican Party in Texas doesn’t start looking like Texas, then we’re going to have problems in the future."

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Texans’ approval of the job Trump is doing as president hovers below 40 percent, according to a recent Gallup state-based survey. The president’s standing in the deep-red state appears similar to his historically low job approval numbers nationally.

Hurd said dissatisfaction with Trump’s performance is of little concern to him in his own reelection race.

“The president’s approval ratings will not have an impact on me, plain and simple,” he said. “I don’t believe in coattails … He’s not on the ballot.”

Asked whether Republicans are likely to hold the House majority after November’s elections, the congressman said the Republican tax-cut bill, enacted in December, can buoy GOP candidates nationwide this fall.

"I’m going to hold onto my seat, that’s a fact,” he said.

Power Politics, hosted by The Hill’s Alexis Simendinger, airs Saturday mornings.