The crisis on our southern border has never been worse. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants have crossed into America, and violent cartel members import drugs and violence into our cities.

The Biden administration thus far has failed to seriously address the crisis.

“This really is a frightening scenario for us to be watching play out, and the administration could actually stop it, but they just haven’t had the political will,” says Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which borders on Mexico and is the fifth-largest House district in area in the nation.

Herrell joins the show to discuss what the GOP plans to do to address the illegal immigration crisis, and how a Republican-controlled House and Senate would push back against the Biden administration’s worst instincts.

We also cover these stories:

  • Speaking in Buffalo, New York, the scene Saturday of a deadly mass shooting, President Joe Biden calls white supremacy a “poison” in the U.S. and condemns those who spread the “great replacement theory.”
  • A federal district court judge rules that religious employers and health care providers can’t be forced by the Biden administration to pay for or perform transgender medical procedures.
  • Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., is booed during a university commencement speech after claiming the “existence of two sexes” is a “fundamental scientific truth.”
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs legislation banning picketing and protesting outside individuals’ homes.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Doug Blair: My guest today is Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Congresswoman, welcome to the show.

Rep. Yvette Herrell: Thank you for having me. Very much an honor for me to be here.

Blair: Of course. Well, we wanted to talk to you about immigration, which, as a member from a border state, is probably near and dear to your heart. You sent a letter on May 6 to the Department of Homeland Security, to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, encouraging him and the Biden administration to keep Title 42 immigration policies in place. What made you send the letter?

Herrell: Well, we actually introduced the PAUSE Act a year—in fact, it’ll be a year ago in February. And in fact, just a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. [Ted] Cruz introduced the same bill on the Senate side because we understood that the Trump policies were working, especially the “Remain in Mexico” and the PAUSE Act.

And what made the PAUSE Act, I think, so helpful was here we were in a pandemic situation. So essentially, this gave Border Patrol the ability to do quick process on the border and then expel those coming into the country illegally either to Mexico or Canada, and it was all because of the pandemic.

We had some language in this bill, we still have the language in the bill, that said until the pandemic is completely done, until our economies are stabilized and all the mandates are lifted, and until the travel restrictions are lowered to a Level 1 to Mexico, Canada.

It’s interesting because we’ve had over a million people come across this border illegally with no COVID test. We know that infectious diseases, not just COVID, are coming across with them, and yet we’re holding the American people to a different standard: “Take the vaccine or lose your status in the military.” “Wear a mask to school.” “Close your business.” I mean, I think the American people are very much tired of this double standard.

Blair: Absolutely. So you mentioned the PAUSE Act a couple of times. For our listeners maybe who aren’t aware, what is the PAUSE Act?

Herrell: Yeah. The PAUSE Act is the bill that we introduced that would’ve allowed Title 42 to stay in place. And again, the bill is important because it really takes on one of the Trump administration-era policies regarding the border and just keeps it. We’re saying, “Don’t get rid of it. Pause here and let’s keep that in play until we get through this pandemic.”

And like I said, we’ve tried over a year to have a hearing on the bill, through committee, through the floor, cannot get it to move.

Here’s the thing. To me, border security is not, in my opinion, a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. It’s a national security issue. The pressure now that we’re putting on our communities, and you’ve probably heard this, every state’s a border state because of just the influx of people and what we’re doing in terms of the economies, the cost to not just those that live in and around the border, but to those now that live further inland because of what we’re doing.

We’re seeing now people being flown all the way to New York in the middle of the night. In fact, a friend of mine in New York calls it night migrants because they only come in on these planes at 2 o’clock in the morning. And that really puts the American people at such a disadvantage, because now we are talking about the pressure on the communities, but the influx of the fentanyl. The winners in this whole scenario are the cartel. No doubt about it.

I’ve had multiple meetings, as many of us had here on the Hill, with [National Border Patrol Council President] Brandon Judd, with [former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection] Mark Morgan, with others who are very much engaged or were very engaged with the entire process of immigration.

This really is a frightening scenario for us to be watching play out and the administration could actually stop it, but they just haven’t had the political will.

Blair: Now, before we started the show, you actually showed me some photos of these cartel members that were crossing the border. I mean, it was a wide open stretch of land. It seemed like they just walked in. How has the cartel’s infiltration of the United States affected your state as a border state in New Mexico?

Herrell: Well, 100%, we’re seeing a major uptick in drugs specifically. Of course, there’s the human trafficking. Every week on the news you’re hearing someone else being pulled over with multiple people in a cargo hold in say a semitractor-trailer or stash houses. That’s where they actually have people and drugs stashed until they can find the mules to bring them across the border.

But what we’re seeing is this fentanyl, especially. In fact, I was in a county that’s like five counties away from the border and they were getting reports of a backpack. So the local police went down to check it out. Sure enough, it was a backpack full of fentanyl left in a yard at somebody’s rural—now, we’re talking rural New Mexico, but any kid could have gotten that.

… So how it’s impacting, it’s putting pressure on our law enforcement, our first responders, our communities, especially during COVID, our elderly.

You have to remember, our state is very poor, in some ways. In terms of poverty, we don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around in a lot of our communities, and most of our police departments are understaffed. So, thank goodness there is collaboration between county, local, and even Border Patrol services so that we can help protect the border.

But here’s something else people need to know. Our governor will not deploy the National Guard to the southern border in New Mexico.

Here’s the problem. We have wide open spaces where there is no Border Patrol agent whatsoever because so many of them, up to 120, are being used as processors in the processing facility over in El Paso, Texas. So we are leaving not only the people of New Mexico and the country, but those that live right there so vulnerable.

So we’re seeing an uptick in livestock death, in stolen vehicles, damage to private property, water lines. And under this administration, we’ve had more migrants die on U.S. soil than ever before. So this is a humanitarian crisis for both sides of the border.

Blair: Right. Given all of these issues that you mention, including the human trafficking and the drugs, do congressional Republicans have a solution to this? What is the legislative proposal that you guys have in place?

Herrell: Well, the PAUSE Act is a great start, but I think also we need to be very realistic. It’s two separate issues, immigration reform and securing our border. We have to make sure that we have the tools in play for our Border Patrol and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents, but there also needs to be consequences for those that are coming across the border.

Certainly, technology, the border wall, more boots on the ground. But certainly, there has to be a consequence for somebody who is breaking the law.

And here’s, I think, what people in America are starting to understand. People are breaking the law, coming here and then getting free access to education, health care, housing, a telephone, money, a job. … When they set foot here, they have status, so they’re able to go and get a Social Security number and that’s going to impact the ability for us to put people back to work by our own right.

So it’s not just the border wall or just this. It’s multiple things we can do. Of course, it’s protecting the American sovereignty. It’s national security. But it’s the health, safety, and welfare. So, multiple things we can do.

The PAUSE Act is a great start only because it gives the Border Patrol that opportunity to just expel immediately. Because we can’t even consider immigration policies until we get the border secure. I mean, that’s just how it has to be. We just can’t handle this influx.

I’m concerned about the number of people. … Brandon Judd with the Border Patrol Council mentioned, and we’ve heard it on TV, that it could be up to 18,000 people. We can’t handle what’s coming across now, let alone—and we know there are large numbers of migrants waiting in the wings.

And here’s what’s interesting, I’ve had seven different ambassadors in my office since I took office having conversations about the border, specifically immigration and what’s happening. And you’d be surprised at the countries that are very disappointed, Guatemala, that this president more or less campaigned on an open-border scenario and didn’t have a consequence, so they’re losing their workforce.

I mean, this affects the [gross domestic product] for a lot of other countries. You look at countries like Panama, where they’re just being overrun, especially when the Haitians were coming through. This has profound impacts on a lot of countries besides just America. Unfortunately, the news isn’t always accurate in talking about political asylum. It’s against the law to come to another country just to seek a better job. It doesn’t work that way.

But I think, again, the double standard talking about the humanitarian crisis, well, what about the Americans now that are being killed by those here illegally? What about the over 100,000 people that overdosed with fentanyl just last year? What are we thinking about when we’re going to say we’ve got to address this humanitarian crisis for those coming here illegally, but we’re not addressing the humanitarian crisis for the American people? And I think that is part of the dialogue that needs to take place.

Blair: Absolutely. Now, Congresswoman, I have two more questions for you. First of all, obviously, from the legislative perspective, there is divided government. Do you anticipate that your colleagues on the other side of the aisle will be of any assistance in getting this type of legislation passed?

Herrell: I think the closer we get to the midterm, sadly, the more we will see, I think, some willingness.

And as time has gone on, especially since the conversation about Title 42 being eliminated in May, I believe we’ve had, what, 20 to 30 Democrats finally start—Sen. Mark Kelly is talking about it. Others are starting to say, “Wait a minute, slow down here,” because they understand this really isn’t, shouldn’t be a Republican/Democrat issue. This is an American issue.

Title 42 is very important to the American public. It polls very high around the country because people are starting to understand the impacts of having an influx of not only people, but of drugs and everything else.

So, I believe that as we get a little bit closer—now, will this president decide to back away from his decision? I don’t know. I wish he would, because again, it should not be an election issue. It should be an American issue. And holding up our Constitution, protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the American people should obviously have precedence over election cycles.

We were here to do a job and this is just unfortunate and it’s frightening, especially border states, but non-border states alike are feeling the push of all this happening at the southern border.

Blair: One final question for you. If Republicans take back the House and the Senate in the 2022 midterms, what is the plan to get the border crisis under control?

Herrell: Yeah. There’ll probably be a couple of different policies, but certainly I think that we would see something similar to the PAUSE Act or possibly the PAUSE Act since it’s been introduced in both chambers.

But again, the path to really getting this border secured—whether it’s finishing the wall, but also technology, also consequences, more judges on the bench, a better way to do the paperwork for those that are waiting. I have people in my district that have waited five, 10 years to come to our country legally. So, they’re very, very disgusted and frustrated with this process.

So I think there are multiple facets in which we can really look at focusing on securing the border, because again, this is a national security issue.

Once we secure the border, then we can actually have the conversation that’s been kicked down the road for decades as far as real immigration reform, but we have to secure the border first.

So I think there could be a potential of two or three different bills that come forward. But the one thing I can tell you is more than likely you would see real, a coalesce around policies that they know will strengthen our borders.

And we’re listening to the experts, the guys who’ve had 20-, 30-year careers in and out of the border with border security, Border Patrol, ICE. And the American people, I think, are ready for something to happen, to protect our nation.

Blair: That was Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time.

Herrell: I’m so glad to be here. I’d love to come back sometime.

Blair: Of course.

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