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Arizona GOP Rep. Defends Trump's Border Address, But Cautions Against National Emergency

Republican U.S. Congressional candidate Debbie Lesko celebrates her win at her home Tuesday, April 24, 2018, in Peoria, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)
Republican U.S. Congressional candidate Debbie Lesko celebrates her win at her home Tuesday, April 24, 2018, in Peoria, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

President Trump continues to suggest he could declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and get a wall built along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a nationally televised address Tuesday night, Trump made a prime-time appeal for the wall, which is at the center of the ongoing partial government shutdown — now in its 19th day.

Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko, who represents Arizona's 8th Congressional District and supports the president's border security proposals, says she hopes Trump won't take that step.

"I think that national defense money, if that's where he would get the money from to build the fence, should go to national defense," Lesko (@DebbieLesko) tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. "But, you know, I hope that Democrats will come to the table. I mean, right now, they're just saying no, they won't even come to the negotiating table."

In his address, Trump called the situation at the border "a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul." However, illegal border crossings in the most recent fiscal year were actually lower than either 2016 or 2014 and much lower than at their peak around 2000, according to NPR's fact-check of the speech.

Democrats like Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester say a wall is not the most effective way to secure the border, and that doing so could come through other means like technology or more border agents. Lesko says "we need all of the above, including a fence."

"I call it a fence, because I have never been under the presumption that it was going to be a concrete or block wall, necessarily. But we need a barrier," she says. "I went down in October to the Nogales border, and met with Customs and Border Patrol officials and the agents, and I asked them outright, 'Do you need a fence?' And they said yes. And the numbers tell that fences work."

Lesko says Democrats' inability to compromise on the issue is responsible for the shutdown. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in their response to Trump's address that the shutdown ought to be decoupled from border security issues so that the government can reopen.

There are 60,000 federal government workers in the state of Arizona currently working without the promise of a paycheck.

"It's awful," says Lesko on the shutdown's impact on her constituents. "And that's why I voted for, on Dec. 20, funding to keep the government open. Unfortunately as you know it passed out of the House with just Republicans, no Democrats voted for it. Unfortunately as you know in the Senate, they have the 60-vote rule, and we don't have 60 Republicans. So, you need some Democrats to get on board.

"We've been told over and over again, 'The Democrats will not budge. They will not even come to the negotiating table.' "

Jill Ryan produced this interview and edited for broadcast. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on January 9, 2019.


Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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