Texas

Survey of Texans in Congress finds little support for full border wall

Among many Texas Republicans in Congress, the concept, while popular with the party's base, collides with another conservative tenant: eminent domain.
Among many Texas Republicans in Congress, the concept, while popular with the party's base, collides with another conservative tenant: eminent domain. For the Texas Tribune

Few, if any, Texans in Congress support building a wall across the entire U.S./Mexico border, according to a Texas Tribune survey of the delegation.

None of the 38-member Texas delegation offered full-throated support of a complete border wall, a position popular with President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters that would affect Texas more than it would any other state.

Instead, several members of the Texas delegation called for new policies on the border, including fencing and walls in some places, and beefing up security in other ways such as employing new surveillance technology and adding more federal agents. Several lawmakers did not respond to multiple requests by the Tribune for comment.

“We will construct a great wall at the border,” Trump said at a rally this month in Cincinnati. But the president-elect has also discussed only constructing a wall in areas where natural barriers like rivers do not exist.

That would be at odds with many of Trump’s supporters, 79 percent of whom were in favor of building a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Pew Research Center poll in August.

Some Texas Republicans in Congress told the Tribune they backed building a wall but declined to clarify whether it should be a contiguous construction from San Diego to Brownsville. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, believes that Trump’s support for a border wall is “an analogy,” according to a spokeswoman.

No Texas Democrat who responded to the Tribune’s survey offered support for a wall.

Among many Texas Republicans in Congress, the concept, while popular with the party’s base, collides with another conservative tenant: eminent domain.

A wall would require the confiscation of ranching land near the Rio Grande, and several Texas Republicans expressed concern about the federal government taking away property — often held by families for generations — and the legal tangles that would inevitably arise from that.

Here is where each Texan in Congress stands on one of Trump’s most popular campaign promises:

Senate

Sen. John Cornyn-R

“… I would say let’s complete the Secure Fence Act, which calls for roughly 700 miles of fencing along mainly in urban areas to prevent people from moving across, particularly drugs and human trafficking and the like,” he told South Texas radio station KURV. “And then let’s enhance the technology that we need, the eyes in the sky, the UAVs and the like. And then let’s make sure that our men and women in green, the Border Patrol, have adequate troops and boots on the ground to get the job done, because if you see folks from the sky or if you see somebody climbing over a fence somewhere, you’re going to have to get a Border Patrol agent there to detain them. So, it’s going to be a combination.”

Sen. Ted Cruz-R

“A Cruz Administration will fulfill the promise Congress made to the American people almost 10 years ago by completing all 700 miles of priority fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and dedicate the resources necessary to replace all single-layer fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border to build a fence that keeps people out and that is technology-supported and law enforcement-accessible,” his former presidential campaign website states. Elsewhere, the website said he will “build a wall that works. The unsecured border with Mexico invites illegal immigrants, criminals, and terrorists to tread on American soil. I will complete the wall.”

Cruz’s former presidential campaign website

House

Rep.-elect Jodey Arrington, R

“Jodey is in support of the wall in places but also knows the need for more border patrol, using new technology, and having fences in place as well,” spokesman Caleb Fisher told the Tribune.

Rep. Brian Babin, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Joe Barton, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Kevin Brady, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Michael Burgess, R

“Congressman Burgess believes that complying with current law should be the first step in halting illegal immigration along our southern border,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Tribune, citing a lack of enforcement of past border legislation, including the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Rep. John R. Carter, R

“Just take the Texas border alone – 1,200 miles, of a lot of wild territory on the Mexican border, you can’t cover it all. The wall in certain places is absolutely essential.”

CNS News/Media Research Center

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D

“Building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is a bad idea. It would stifle economic activity and drain money that’s badly needed to create jobs, fund schools, and repair beaten-up roads,” he said in a statement to the Tribune. “The future of border security lies in manpower and smart technology, not medieval defenses.”

Official statement

Rep. Mike Conaway, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D

“No, the congressman is against a wall,” spokesman Rafael Benavides emailed the Tribune. “He calls it a ’14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem.’ He feels more technology, coupled with agents on the border will be more effective and much less costly than a physical wall.”

Rep. John Culberson, R

“Congressman Culberson supports President-elect Trump’s plan to secure the border with a wall,” spokeswoman Emily Taylor told the Tribune.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D

“I think that it makes no sense at all, and before it’s over, Trump’s most famous claim that he would build a wall that Mexico would pay for will dissolve,” he told the Tribune in an interview.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Bill Flores, R

“I’m not in favor of the wall, I’m in favor of an integrated system,” he told The Dallas Morning News in November. “It’s more than a wall,” he added. He later told the Tribune in a statement: “I fully support President-elect Trump’s national commitment to secure our borders. I believe we need an integrated system of border security, which consists of increased border security personnel; a physical wall where feasible; and a virtual wall including sensors, airborne resources, surveillance assets and related logistics.”

The Dallas Morning News

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R

“You don’t need it down in Big Bend National Park, there’s some places you don’t, but some places you really do, and we need to do it. The Israelis have shown whether you call it a fence or a wall, it can work if it’s seriously enforced.”

The Dallas Morning News

Rep.-elect Vicente Gonzalez, D

“I believe in strong smart effective border security for the United States. However, living in an era of cutting edge security technology around the world, the idea of a straight up wall seems a little antiquated, expensive and not likely effective,” he said in a statement. “If we’re gonna talk about going into a new common sense approach to government, why would we treat the border any differently. ‘If we buy an umbrella, we want it to keep the rain out.’”

Rep. Kay Granger, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Al Green, D

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Gene Green, D

“To build a wall from San Diego to Brownsville is just crazy. … We can control the border without building a wall,” he said in a phone interview with the Tribune. “Bipartisanly, over the years, we’ve always supported beefed-up border security.”

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R

“The congressman fully supports the President-elect’s objective to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration and smuggling into the United States — whether that’s through a wall, fencing, enhanced technology, more personnel, policy changes, or any combination thereof, that will achieve that goal,” spokeswoman Liz Hill told the Tribune.

Rep. Will Hurd, R

“Building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. We need to allow the men and women in Border Patrol to adjust their tactics, techniques and procedures as they see fit. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution,” he said in a statement to the Tribune. “What works in San Diego doesn’t necessarily work in Tucson, and you need something different in El Paso. In heavily populated places a wall can be a useful tool. It’s just one more tool in your toolkit used to solve this problem.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D

“Against it. … I think we can handle border security in a much more efficient manner,” she said in an interview with the Tribune. “That means with, what I did some years ago with Sen. [John] Kerry, enhancing the resources that border patrol agents have, laptops, night goggles. Now it’s more sophisticated, of course. The road equipment, the helicopters that can provide surveillance, and certainly, we constantly, at Homeland Security, are looking for new technology, but the wall is both costly and, I believe, somewhat unusable.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D

“If he wants to stop the influx of undocumented immigrants through our southern border, President-Elect Trump should focus on comprehensive immigration reform, not building another wall. We already have walls on the southern border,” she said in a statement to the Tribune. “That would be a massive waste of our country’s money and resources while still not fixing the problem. We must focus on bringing those undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and have a complete and comprehensive reform of our immigration system.”

Rep. Sam Johnson, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Kenny Marchant, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Michael McCaul, R

“Starting next month, the people are going to get what they asked for,” he wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. “We are going to build the wall. Period.” When asked by the Tribune if that meant he supported a contiguous wall along the entire border, a spokeswoman declined to comment.

Fox News

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D

“We’re spending the record amount of $19.5 billion each year to secure our border, at a time that it has never been safer,” he said in a statement to the Tribune. “Record-low levels of northbound apprehensions, El Paso the safest city in the country, and not a single terrorist or terror plot that has used our connection with Mexico to do us harm. Irrational, obsessive focus on the border will prevent us from stopping threats where they really exist and will waste precious resources that are needed elsewhere.”

Rep. Pete Olson, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Ted Poe, R

“Congressman Poe believes that effective border security requires not only physical barriers but also technology (aerostats, night vision equipment, etc.) and more boots on the ground,” spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes emailed the Tribune. “As always, he believes Washington should bear this responsibility, not the border states.”

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R

“I’m in favor of a wall in places along the border, but anyone that has toured the entire southern border knows that in some places a wall will work and in some places it won’t,” he said in an interview with the Tribune. He further advocated for increased manpower on the border, aerial technology and subterranean technology.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R

“… He believes President elect Trump’s comments on the wall are an analogy for how he will strengthen border security, protect our sovereignty, and maintain our nation’s rule of law,” spokeswoman Caroline Boothe wrote in an email.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R

Did not respond to requests for comment

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R

A spokesman said that Thornberry “does believe that we need to secure our border and that will require new legislation,” and pointed to Thornberry voting for the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D

“My point of view on anything that happens on the border is, what is the perspective of people that live on the border? And the ranchers, the mayors, the people that run the border communities and towns and cities, they’ve said there is no need for a wall,” he told the Tribune in an interview. “I would not be supportive of it. I wouldn’t want anyone coming to Fort Worth or into Dallas telling us what we need, if we were against that as a North Texas delegation.”

Rep. Filemon Vela, D

“You can take your border wall and shove it up your ass,” Vela famously wrote to Trump this year. He did, however, elaborate in a recent interview with the Tribune that he could back some facets of increased border security.

Rep. Randy Weber, R

“Do we need to build a wall the entire way? That’s a discussion we’ll have,” he told the Tribune. He added that he harbors eminent domain concerns and has repeatedly solicited House GOP leadership to spend more time on addressing border security.

Rep. Roger Williams, R

“Congressman Williams believes we need to have an all-of-the-above approach to stopping illegal border crossings,” spokesman Vince Zito emailed the Tribune. “This means boots on the ground, drones in the air and a wall where we can build so that we can effectively enforce the laws on the books.”

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