Weekly Democratic Address
January 11, 2019
Hi, I’m Scott Peters and I represent San Diego, California in the United States Congress.
When I first came to Congress in 2013, I asked the president of the Regional Chamber of Commerce in San Diego – who also happens to be the city’s Republican former Mayor and Police Chief – what’s the number one thing the federal government could do to promote job growth in our region. And he said we needed to make a federal investment in critical infrastructure at our border with Mexico.
But this former Police Chief wasn’t asking for a wall.
He was asking for a gateway – a bridge, and improved customs facilities at the San Ysidro Port of Entry because long delays at the vehicle crossing were costing our region billions of dollars in economic activity and 60,000 jobs per year.
Working together, San Diego’s Congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats, secured the additional $442-million in federal investment to modernize the San Ysidro Port of Entry. It’s the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere, where commercial trade between San Diego and Tijuana is valued at $2.1 million per day.
Our nation’s investments in Ports of Entry support a thriving international economy. But they also provide critical border security. Customs agents inspect, weigh and x-ray vehicles and bags. They make sure travelers have proper identification and valid visas – that they are properly vetted and screened before entering the United States.
215,000 tons of hard drugs were intercepted at ports of entry from 2012 to 2016. Agents at our ports everyday arrest criminals, seize narcotics and guns, deny admission to people they identify as a threat to national security.
That’s what real border security looks like, and I can tell you that San Diegans want that border security. But we do not want a wall.
In the last Congress, my colleagues Pete Aguilar of California, a Democrat, and Will Hurd of Texas, a Republican, proposed legislation with wide bipartisan support that included border security measures we could all agree on.
It would have directed Homeland Security to perform a mile-by-mile assessment of our entire southern border to determine the most practical and effective way to secure it, and to offer Congress a strategy for each section of the border.
It might be state-of-the-art technologies to detect tunnels because even in places where we have a fence, as we do in San Diego, it’s pretty easy to dig tunnels underneath.
It might be sensors and radar to spot moving people and objects in any weather or any time of day.
It might be cameras mounted on drones to surveil places where the terrain is tough to monitor.
Or, it might be, a physical barrier, such as a levee or fence if that makes sense in some places. But if Homeland Security wanted to recommend something as expensive as a wall in a particular place, they’d have to justify the extra expense against other less costly tools.
In the last Congress, 193 Congressional Democrats and 23 Republicans acted to force a vote on these smart approaches to border security. But unfortunately, Republican leadership did not allow a vote on our bipartisan bill, but I bet most Democrats would support these measures in this Congress this year.
So, when President Trump says Democrats are against border security and for open borders, he’s lying.
We do not support a multi-billion-dollar wall that will destroy sensitive lands, take private property, and can be tunneled under, climbed over or cut through, all while illegal border crossings have steadily declined over the past two decades. No. That’s not border security. That’s borderline crazy.
The one truth the President did state is that there is a crisis at the border. And there is a humanitarian crisis, it’s created by him.
It’s a crisis when the President threatens to shut down the nation’s legal immigration and asylum process over a border wall that’s just really a campaign gimmick.
It’s a crisis when the President spends 72 million of your tax dollars to send our military to the border to confront a threat that didn’t exist, like he did in November, as a political stunt to rally his base.
It’s a crisis when this Administration is allowing women and children – babies – to be dumped on American streets in the middle of the night with nothing more than the clothes on their back, without food, money, health screenings, or any plans to get them to their destinations.
And there is a crisis when the government shutdown means that 800,000 federal workers are denied a paycheck this week, and now can’t pay their mortgage or rent, student loans, or medical expenses, hurting their credit rating because our President won’t budge on his impossible wall.
And by the way, this shutdown includes the Coast Guard, which is a cornerstone of our border security. How stupid is that?
Mr. President, Senator McConnell – Democrats have laid out for you several border security measures we can all get behind. Let’s re-open the government and talk about these ideas and quit holding the paychecks of 800,000 federal workers hostage to a wall that is never going to get built.