WASHINGTON, D.C. — “I don’t how to say it, being a guy who doesn’t curse a lot,” Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon responded when asked about President Obama’s $3.7 billion supplemental emergency request to deal with the ongoing crisis at the border.
“It’s like so many of the things he does: spend first, ask questions later,” Salmon continued Thursday, in an interview with Breitbart News.
Salmon is one of seven congressmen House Speaker John Boehner recently appointed to a working group to consider solutions to the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and family units illegally crossing the border into the U.S.
“What we want to do is enforce the laws,” the conservative from Arizona said, pointing to a list House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte – also a member of the working group – recently released of the actions Obama could take to deal with the crisis that he has not yet done.
“There is just so much hypocrisy,” Salmon said. “So the President is calling for the [$3.7 billion supplemental funding], and a lot of people are saying, ‘Look at all the powers you already have, why aren’t you doing that? Why are you saying nothing can be fixed until you get money, when you already have the authority to do all these things?'”
Goodlatte’s list of actions includes sending a strong message that children who enter the U.S. illegally will be sent home, cracking down on asylum fraud, stop “abusing his prosecutorial discretion authority,” stop releasing convicted criminal aliens from ICE custody, give Border Patrol access to federal land, and detain asylum seekers until their claims are proven.
Salmon said that the working group – led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and including Rep. John Carter (R-TX), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) – is not content with simply writing a check to Obama to deal with the problem. Instead, he said, they are looking at policies to stop the problem.
“I’m really pleasantly surprised, at least at the dialogue that has been going on right now,” the conservative from Arizona said.
“Policy, before money,” he described the working group’s thought process on the president’s funding request. “Do what you can do with your existing powers. You, know it’s kind of like, show us.”
Salmon said so far the working group has largely been on the same page on issues, notably one that he came into the group pushing: looking to revise a 2008 trafficking law that has made removing unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries a long, difficult process.
Thursday, Salmon introduced a bill to expedite the removal of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors from Central America, amending that 2008 law.
“It basically puts Central America on the same standards that we have with Mexico and Canada,” he explained.
Salmon said he has been pushing the revisions to the law in the working group since the first day and has gotten a lot of support in the group – noting that much of the $1.8 billion for Health and Human Services included in Obama’s supplemental request would not be needed if his legislation passed.
“It’s not the silver bullet that fixes everything, but I think it goes a long way toward giving our trained people at the border the flexibility to do their job,” he said,
Salmon said that the working group has been supportive of his bill and that members are pushing to have a vote on it quickly.
“I’ve had all the conservative members coming up to me and saying, ‘Matt we need a vote on this tomorrow, your bill gets rid of a lot of excuses,'” he said.
Wednesday, Granger released a statement pointing to that same 2008 law as a change the group is considering pushing.
“We agree with the President that they must be returned to their home countries in the most humane way possible, and that will require a revision of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act,” she said.
Salmon added to Breitbart News that some of the other issues the group is looking at include securing the southern border of Mexico, checking the immigration status of the people to whom Health and Human Services are turning unaccompanied children over, and deploying the National Guard to the border.
“The problem is so many of our Customs and Border Patrol people are now off of the border because they are babysitting these kids, and the drug traffickers are having a heyday with it,” he said, describing how the children serve as a “bait and switch” distraction for the drug cartels to move their illicit products.
The Arizona congressman added that, while the government has been trying to silence Border Patrol officers, they are still talking to him, some in high levels of the agency.
“They are so frustrated that they can’t do their job,” Salmon said. “It’s catch and release.”
The working group is planning to present its first update to the House GOP Conference next week.