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Rep. Steny Hoyer On Border Security


The deadline for select members of the House and Senate to reach a deal on border security funding is Friday. If they settle on a compromise that can pass both chambers and get signed by the president, we'll avoid another shutdown.

So let's begin this hour of the program talking border security with Steny Hoyer. He's the House majority leader, the most powerful Democrat behind the speaker. He spent the weekend at the border in Texas and New Mexico. Good morning, and welcome to WEEKEND EDITION.

STENY HOYER: Thank you very much, glad to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I understand you're at the airport this morning, finishing up this border trip.

HOYER: Correct.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Will there be a compromise, and will it bring some new stretches of physical barrier at the border?

HOYER: Well, I'm optimistic that there will be a compromise based upon my conversations with a number of the conferees on Thursday. It obviously has not been reported out. I don't know the specifics. I would believe it's going to be a compromise because that's what conference committees are. So I would believe there's going to be some barrier treatment in the bill. I hope...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The number 2 billion has been floated for border fencing. You would support that?

HOYER: I have not heard - I've heard that number. And I want to see what the rest of the bill looks like. And I'm sure I'm like every other member. But I would think that that's - when you talk about between 1.6 and 5.7, that's not a surprising compromise. But in any event, we want to see it used smartly.

And the trip that I've just concluded, in concert with four other members of Congress and two - including two of whom represent the Texas border in El Paso, Veronica Escobar, and the New Mexican border, Xochitl Torres Small, those two congresswoman were with us, as was Deb - Debra Haaland, who also represents New Mexico but a northern district, and Mary Gay Scanlon, like me, represents an East Coast district. She's from outside Philadelphia.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you've been...

HOYER: And what I think we...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you've been at the border. And I want to bring this up because I was also in Texas at the border this past week. And you say that you would support some border fencing. And I spoke to people and organizations there. And here's one border resident, Nayda Alvarez.

NAYDA ALVAREZ: They're going into our properties to build this wall. Luckily, we're in the 2019 appropriations. So whatever it is that they vote on next week, on the 15, that's when we'll find out what's going to happen to us. So we're hoping it doesn't go through or that they don't give any money towards the - any more barriers or walls.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So people are already getting letters from the federal government using the power of eminent domain to seize private property in order to build a wall. What can you tell them?

HOYER: Well, I think that that is going to depend upon what the language in the bill is as to how the money can be used. Again, I haven't seen it. I don't know that there's going to be 2 billion. I don't know that there's going to be barriers in there. I presumed because a conference is a compromise, and the president and the Senate members of the conference committee wanted some barrier.

We think that that's not really necessary, as you know. What we think is necessary is dealing with personnel, technology, infrastructure. And in addition to that, Lucille Roybal-Allard from California has suggested - and I strongly support it - monies available to the triangle countries where the...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Honduras, Guatemala...

HOYER: Yes, El Salvador, Guatemala...


HOYER: ...And Honduras, where so many of the refugees are now coming. There's a real change. Five years ago, it was single men coming in, a lot sneaking in. Now what we're seeing is moms, children, families coming to points of entry and going up to Border Patrol and saying, we want to turn ourselves in and seek asylum, which of course, under our law, is what they can do. So there's a character difference in the kind of influx of immigrants that we are seeing today than we saw five years ago.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're going to have to leave it there. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, thank you so much.

HOYER: Thank you very much. Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.