The Department of Homeland Security expects the number of new illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. to top 1.1 million by the end of the fiscal year in September. The border crisis is much talked about in Washington, but little progress is being made to address it. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., recently took a trip to the border to see for himself what things are like. In today’s episode, he shares his thoughts in an exclusive interview with Rachel.
We also cover the following stories:
- President Donald Trump hits China with new tariffs to take effect in September.
- Justice Department will not prosecute former FBI Director James Comey for leaking classified documents.
- The Senate passes massive two-year spending deal that busts spending caps.
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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee who actually just came back from a trip to the border where [he] spent several days in El Paso.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us today.
Rep. Mark Green: Rachel, thanks for having me on the show.
del Guidice: It’s a pleasure to have you with us. So you just got back from El Paso and you saw up close and personal the situation that we’re in right now at our southern border. What are your major takeaways from this trip?
Green: I think, first and foremost, the people of ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] are doing phenomenal work and they’ve done phenomenal work in the midst of a massive crisis that overwhelmed the border with limited resources.
Now, with the 4.6 billion, they have resources to add facilities and resources. Food, water, all that stuff, trash, all the things that you have to do when you run an operation like they do. But just, first and foremost, their hard work and dedication to America.
I think No. 2 would be the absolute absurdity that our asylum laws have become and the perverse incentives that [they are] causing.
And I’ll give you an example. I think it was Monday night, I did a ride along with [Customs and Border Protection]. I’m out on the border, riding around with agents, and they apprehended three people in a family, a husband, wife, and a child that were from Brazil.
Now, Brazil is not any country that’s … nobody is suspecting Brazil of creating political refugees, etc. But they flew to Panama, and then from Panama flew to Cancun, and then from Cancun, a combination of bused and walked to our border, walked across, and they came up to the Border Patrol agents.
It’s not as if they’re trying to run away. They go and turn themselves in because they know that if they do so with a child, and if after processing, that child is determined to be theirs, they’re just released into the country with a court date, two to three years from now that they don’t necessarily have to show up.
And it’s really crazy. … With the asylum laws the way they are, we don’t have an immigration system in this country. I mean, people with a child come across the southern border, no matter who they are, where they’re from, and they’re just turned loose in the country. It’s crazy.
del Guidice: It is. I was at the border in April and they told us the same thing. Border Patrol said, “We will pick up a family if there are kids, we’ll process them, give them a court date,” and a lot of times they said these people never show up for that court date.
Green: Forty percent of the time they never show. And the remainder of the time they get a court order that tells them to leave and the vast majority of those don’t [show] with a court order.
That’s why these ICE raids that were vilified by the left, and were effectively executed by the Obama administration, I might add … the president is right. President Trump is right. We need to go and find those individuals that have a court order saying they need to leave America.
I guess the third thing that really impressed me was the absolute contrast. In fact, it’s offensive what the Democrats have said about the border, claiming that people are drinking out of … toilets.
I spoke to the [Border Patrol] agent who was standing there when the woman described that she was getting water and she said the Spanish word, the Guatemalan Spanish word for bathroom.
And I don’t know about you, but I go to the bathroom and get a cup of water out of my sink and drink it. That’s essentially what the woman was saying.
Of course that caused … [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-]Cortez thought she heard she was drinking out of the toilet. The press immediately blew that out of proportion and they’re … the people that are down there are in great … I mean it’s great conditions, significantly better than where many of them have come from. Air conditioning. They are separated by ages, and by gender, and things like that.
But there are no cages. There’s plenty of food. In fact, at the ICE facility I toured, the dietician who is providing them the menu and the nutrition of it all is the same individual who does it for Fort Bliss, Texas, our soldiers. And the menus are identical. So they’re getting fed the same, exact same thing, that our soldiers are being fed.
So this notion, this hyperbole, these incredibly false accusations from the left are offensive. It just pales. I can’t understand that they think that they can just walk all over the truth like this. I’m infuriated at that. So, those are probably the three biggies that I walked away from my trip with.
del Guidice: That’s incredible. And you mentioned, and I saw the photo that you posted on Twitter with the whole situation surrounding when Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she had been down at the border and migrants were drinking water out of toilets. And you mentioned this just now as well, that you were there and that’s not the case.
Are there any other misconceptions that were brought to light when you were down there and actually saw what was happening versus what is being told on the media?
Green: Yeah, the nutrition piece, that’s been something that both Ocasio-Cortez and others have talked about. There are snacks that you and I maybe would call sugary snacks, but they’re there for the children to eat. You know, Doritos, potato chips, and things like that. Anyone who wants something can go up and get a snack 24/7.
But they have meals, hot meals, that are very nutritious. You know, as I mentioned earlier, using the dietitian from the military base. So if you look at the snacks and were to think, “Oh gosh, let’s tell everybody this is all the food they’re getting and they’re eating junk food.” Well, yeah, but that might be a perception you could have by looking at the stack of juices and things like that.
But the truth of the matter is they’re getting hot meals that are very nutritious, and then the snacks are just there to be available.
Another thing, too, they track everything. They track when the individuals eat. They even track when they shower, so they go to them and they say, “It’s been 24 hours since you showered, you’re on schedule to shower now.”
Obviously, they’ve got limited shower stalls, so they have to phase people first. They go and say, “Hey, it’s your turn, your code popped up on the system and it’s your turn for a shower. And oftentimes people will say, “No, I’m not interested.” You can’t force them, but they’re even tracking when it’s their turn for the next shower and going to them and [telling] them.
These guys are doing an amazing job down there and the best characterization. The falsehoods, the lies, are absurd.
del Guidice: Wow. That is really interesting. That’s something I myself have never heard. I also wanted to ask you, you toured an ICE facility and a Customs and Border [Protection] station. What were those experiences like?
You mentioned there not being cages. That was something that you did not encounter. What was that experience like? What did you see when you were there?
Green: Well, interestingly, at one of the infirmaries we went through, there was an Iraqi who had flown to Central America and walked up and come across the southern border. People are coming from all over the world.
But if you’re asking sort of the emotional sense, I think the biggest emotion I had was just frustration at the lies of the media and the far left. Clearly the people are well taken care of.
I think the other thing is, I’m proud of my country. One, for how they’re taking care of these individuals at the border. I’m also proud that people would want to come to America. Obviously, we’ve done some things right and we’ve got a great country and people want to come here. I understand. We just have to have a system of laws that work.
I prefer merit-based immigration and things like that. But there was a great sense about how awesome our country is by the resources we’re providing. The actual cost that was quoted to me was $250 million just in health care alone, for all [that the Customs and Border Protection] delivered to individuals who come across the border.
So, that’s a lot of American taxpayer dollars going to take care of people who are trying to come into our country and we’re doing it right. So, proud of my country, proud of [Customs and Border Protection] and ICE. Frustrated at the lies of the left. I guess that’s my emotional response.
del Guidice: Yeah. And that’s such an interesting response. And I feel like one we don’t hear all the time because we hear people on the left and lawmakers in Congress saying, “Oh, these people are crossing over and then they’re being subjected to concentration camp-like conditions,” when in fact … there was a report out today in the Washington Examiner that said 1.1 million people will have crossed into the border by Sept. 30 and these people want to come because there’s something here and they want to be part of that.
So I think that’s this unique and important perspective to remember and we just want to make sure people are doing it legally.
So, not only did you tour government facilities like ICE and [Customs and Border Protection], you also had some meetings with local businesses and ranchers in the area. What are you hearing from Americans who essentially live on the border and experience this crisis day in and day out?
Green: Well, they’re incredibly frustrated and I missed the meeting with the ranchers when they sat down with the ranchers. That was on the end of Day Two.
But I talked to people in El Paso and business leaders there as I interacted with folks and they’re frustrated. They are overwhelmed. Many … obviously, there’s crime related to this, so they’re fearful in that regard. But yeah, I missed the actual meeting with the ranchers, which was scheduled for the Tuesday afternoon, late Tuesday afternoon.
del Guidice: And some of your Democratic colleagues, I heard they traveled to the border last month. Do you think your experience was similar to theirs’ or do you know if areas where both of your trips differed, or if there were different takeaways from those two different tracks of visits to the border?
Green: Well, clearly, they have different takeaways than us. They’d come away saying just the opposite of what we’re saying, which blows my mind.
But I will say this: Many of the [Customs and Border Protection] guys shared with us that the volume was down. And when I did my ride-alongs on the border, I could see the Mexican national guardsmen actually standing watch across the border.
President Trump’s trade threat clearly had an impact. Mexico responded and the number of people coming across the border has significantly decreased. That’s something that’s relatively new in the past several weeks.
Now, Mexico put those guys on a 45-day deployment, so the Border Patrol is aware of this. They anticipate, or the way they described it is they think that they’re in the eye of the storm and that once those 45-day national call-ups are over in Mexico, they anticipate that the volume will increase again.
Let’s hope Mexico continues to do its part at its southern border. Of course, now there’s their agreement with Guatemala, too, which will help, but that’s probably the biggest difference from the past several weeks.
del Guidice: You mentioned the asylum laws earlier at the start of our conversation. What do you think are some of the biggest loopholes in our current immigration system that need to be fixed, whether it’s asylum laws or other, now that you’ve been there? What are some things that you’re seeing, “OK, we need to definitely change how this works”?
Green: Well, the court cases and all that stuff that led … we talk about, everybody calls it the Flores amendment or the Flores agreement. Well, the result of all of it is that a child, if there’s a child, and if it goes through the process of being verified, that it is with the right people.
And by the way, one of the things we learned on this trip is that 30% of the people that come over with children, they’re fraudulent. Meaning they either rented the child—we actually heard that—but that there were people renting their child to come across and be used basically as a visa.
That’s what this whole Flores thing does, is that it allows, if there’s a child and it’s connected with that individual and it’s not fraudulent, then they get released immediately into the country. They get a court date in the future and that’s it. So it’s a visa into the United States. The child becomes the visa and that’s got to be fixed. That is the central thing that has to be fixed.
Also, the ability to determine credible fear at the border. If we can immediately determine credible fear, then there are people that we could return. It wouldn’t have to wait on a court date. So those are two of the biggest things that need to be fixed.
del Guidice: What would you say, during the course of your trip, maybe one of the biggest things that might have reinforced your position about the crisis there, or changed it? Maybe something that was surprising, or something that just reinforced what you’ve seen, what you’ve been told by others who actually live there, about the crisis that we’re seeing?
Green: I was a little surprised to hear the number 30% on fraudulent families, so to speak. I thought that was much larger than I would’ve expected.
Other surprises … I was surprised to hear how supportive the people on the border are of the president’s initiatives. They are very supportive of the tariff threats and the impact that that’s had. And those are probably the two biggest surprises for me.
del Guidice: What is your take, given there’s been a lot and it’s no secret, President Trump campaigned on building a wall along the southern border and there’s been opposition to that in Congress and elsewhere.
Do you think a wall will help? And why do you think there has been such opposition to it?
Green: Yeah, I think the wall absolutely helps. It is hard to get over so people go around it. And what that does is it allows the [Customs and Border Protection] to basically concentrate their efforts. It channelizes the flow of immigrants, migrants, and so they can concentrate efforts and look for the really bad characters like MS-13, terrorists, and the cartels, the crime that’s happening.
So, you see this stuff, if you can narrow the distances over which you have to look, you can find that needle in the haystack and hopefully either stop drugs, stop MS-13 gangs and other crime that’s happening.
Obviously, once the immigration laws are fixed, then there’ll be more that they can do with regard to immigrants. But, right now, it’s those drugs and the criminal element that are really the priority to stop.
del Guidice: During your trip, I know that you mentioned you also visited some ports of entry. What was that experience like? What did you see, and what are some reforms in those spaces that you believe need to be made after being there?
Green: I think the entry control points are very good. They’re well managed. There is this constant sea of people coming though and I don’t see an end to that any time soon until we change the laws, but they do a very good job of inspecting.
I think they need more modern technology in terms of X-ray technology. Right now, they’re not looking into every single vehicle, every single transport vehicle that comes over. Clearly, that’s an opportunity for bad things to happen. It would be great if they had more resources in that area.
The other thing I think they could change is, they’re not inspecting any of the vehicles going back, and I think that is clearly an opportunity to identify some of the criminal elements that are coming in and going back. So I would like to see them inspect more of the traffic that’s flowing south.
del Guidice: Given your time visiting and speaking with ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] officials, what would you say is the mood of those who work so hard to protect the border? Are they overwhelmed? Are they frustrated? Do they feel like they’re being listened to? What was the mood that you experienced in getting to spend time with them?
Green: Well, they’re great Americans. They love the country and they’re for the rule of law. They are encouraged right now because of the support that the president’s given and because the $4.6 billion got approved.
I think if I had visited prior to that, there’d have been a lot of frustration, but the morale seems to be significantly higher after those two things. The decreased flow from the tariff threats and the $4.6 billion in resources that were approved by Congress. They were in good spirits. They were encouraged and clearly they love the country.
del Guidice: So you come from Tennessee, the 7th Congressional District, and while you don’t represent a border state, are there ways that you’ve seen your state has even been impacted by illegal immigration even though you’re not right at the border?
Green: Well, sure. We see a lot of job displacement. We see … wages are decreased and undercut because of the employment of illegals. You know, Tennessee has some pretty strong laws. If you have more than 25 employees, you have to be E-Verify, which I think is a good thing.
And then we also have sanctuary city laws. In fact, I myself wrote one and got it passed that if a city becomes a sanctuary city, that city will lose its state economic development funds. That was my sort of anti-sanctuary city bill and it is now law in Tennessee.
So, while we have some pretty strong laws in place, there’s still individuals that are hiring people that they are, you know, it’s illegal to hire, and I think that is undercutting wages and displacing Americans from jobs.
del Guidice: Final question: If you could leave your Democratic colleagues, and even Americans around the country, with one reflection or remark about what you saw this past week about the crisis at the border, what would that be?
Green: That we’re a great country and we are doing great things to take care of the individuals who are flocking to our country, and the [Customs and Border Protection] and the ICE people are people of heart, and they care, and they’re doing everything within their power to manage the crisis.
We just need to make sure that Congress fixes the laws and gives those men and women the resources they need to do their jobs.
del Guidice: Well, Congressman Green, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s always a pleasure to have you on The Daily Signal Podcast.
Green: Thanks. Thanks for having me, Rachel. Have a good day.