GOP Rep. Kinzinger After Deployment to Border: Situation Warrants Emergency Declaration

Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said the situation at the southern border constituted a national emergency after witnessing it during his Air National Guard unit deployed to Arizona.

Partial transcript as follows:

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re going to turn now to Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger who’s in Chicago but he is just freshly back from the border. He was serving with the Air National Guard at the border where he was flying surveillance missions out of Tucson, Arizona. Congressman this wasn’t your first border deployment. It’s the first one under the national emergency. Does it constitute a national emergency?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Yeah I think it does. You know, I went down there kind of undecided. You know I- I put on my lieutenant colonel hat, was apolitical but obviously I’m looking at this, getting the information I can. And I think if this was just an issue of immigration it wouldn’t constitute a national emergency but what I saw was really disturbing. Let me give you just a couple of quick examples and I was just a small part of all the operations that were being done.

We found at one point a woman hunkered down in the desert because her coyotes who brought her over deserted her because they wanted to get away. Had she actually not been found by us I don’t know if she’d been able to find her way home. So yeah, she got picked up by Border Patrol, she’s going to be deported, but that was a way better option than being one of the 200, at least, bodies they end up finding in the desert every year.

And keep in mind I’ve done this, you know, we had a mission where we found 70 pounds of methamphetamines on somebody that was coming over and I’m just a very small part of that. This is the fourth time I’ve been to the border, my first time in Arizona, completely different terrain than my prior in Texas. Texas by the way, I was there under President Obama. So the Guard’s mission on the border is nothing new.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But border apprehensions are near a 50 year low. So when you’re talking about an emergency and- and you have border state governors tell you that’s just not what they’re seeing, how do you justify sending as much as 6,000 active duty troops?

REP. KINZINGER: Well what I didn’t see is a low in apprehension. I mean there were- there were beyond-  you’d get calls of —

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s according to Customs and Border Patrol.

REP. KINZINGER: That’s fine. That’s fine. I’m saying, what- from my experience there were many, many groups that we would see on technology with camera radar or something like that that we could not go address because there were not enough Border Patrol agents. These agents sometimes left to take a truck and then walk two miles through terrible terrain to get to these groups only to have them run while they’re already exhausted and they get lost in that chaos. So is it down? Maybe.

Part of that’s because now they’ve understood how to abuse the asylum laws in this country. You have a lot of folks from countries that are not declaring asylum in Mexico where they should be because it’s the first country where they can actually declare safety and coming here they’ve learned how to do that. So now you have this crisis basically of- which I don’t think the actual migration or the calling for asylum isn’t of itself a crisis. But you now have a massive amount of people doing that. But I’ll tell you what I saw was a lot of people coming over the border, a lot of drugs in the border and a lot of human trafficking. I mean these coyotes that would get paid a lot of money to bring groups over and then desert them to save their own backside. It was extremely disturbing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So am I understanding that with the picture you’re painting, am I understanding that you believe the president’s declaration of a national emergency is constitutional and that you will not vote to try to block it.

REP. KINZINGER: Yeah I won’t vote to try to block it. Look, I- I wish this would have happened a different way. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform. I think Republicans, the Democrats both have good ideas on immigration that we ought to all —

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you think this is constitutional for the president–

REP. KINZINGER:  I do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –to bypass the power of the purse strings of Congress?

REP. KINZINGER:  I do. Yes. Yes, because in this case like I said at the beginning, if this was just about immigration I would disagree. I do think this is a security threat. It’s a security threat with the amount of drugs coming over the border and the human trafficking that I’ve seen. And again in Arizona, I think they said last year there were 200 bodies at least that they found in the desert. It is not compassionate as your prior guest said to basically say, “We’re not going to do border security because in essence would encourage people to come across the border.”

It’s compassionate to say do it the right way. Do it- we’re going to have a secure border. We’re going to have an immigration system that is welcoming in which I fully believe in, doing it the right way instead of forcing in some cases very innocent people to pay the drug cartels, to pay the cartels money, to Coyote them into a very dangerous part of this country and then abandon them when the- when the heat gets too hot.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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