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GOP Rep. Will Hurd: 'One-Size-Fits-All' Plan To Border Security Is Wrong


We're going to hear now from someone who knows the U.S.-Mexico border better than almost anyone else in Washington. Congressman Will Hurd represents a district that includes an 800-mile stretch of border. He is African-American, Republican and just won re-election in a district that is 70 percent Latino that went for Hillary Clinton. Congressman Hurd joins us from his district in Texas. Welcome to the program.

WILL HURD: Thanks, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So that district where you are right now includes more of the border than any other congressional district, and you've put out a statement saying that Donald Trump's proposal for a wall is what you called the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border. Why is that?

HURD: Because having a one-size-fits-all solution to border security is the wrong way to do it. What you need in San Diego is very different than what you need in El Paso or Harlingen, and it's also the most expensive. During the campaign, our president suggested that this was going to cost $9 billion. MIT did a breakdown on the cost, they think it could be anywhere between 27 and $40 billion. And to just give some context of that number, the entire U.S. intelligence budget is $53 billion.

SHAPIRO: Well, what do you think would be more effective and cost-effective?

HURD: Let's use a mix of technology. It's going to be significantly cheaper than building a wall. Let's focus on drug traffickers, you know, kingpin human smugglers. Let's increase the operations that the NSA and the CIA are doing to collect on those organizations, and work with our Mexican partners to stop the problem before it actually gets to our border.

SHAPIRO: So are you saying do basically what we've been doing but more of it, or are you saying do something completely different from what we've been doing the last five, 10 years?

HURD: So the last eight years we have had kind of a one-size-fits-all solution to border security. We don't have enough border patrol officers. We haven't been giving them the resources that they need to do their job, that we need to allow them to adjust their tactics, techniques and procedures as they see fit based on the unique realities on the ground.

In some parts of my district we need horses and TVs rather than a wall. I have the Big Bend National Park in my district, the highest peak is 8,000 feet. All right, are you going to build a wall in the middle of the Rio Grande River and then on top of a mountain peak? That doesn't make sense.

SHAPIRO: But it sounds like what you're suggesting is going to be a lot harder to point to, take a photograph in front of, talk about in a pithy soundbite than a great big beautiful wall might be.

HURD: I spent nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer in the CIA, protecting our country is not easy because we also have to remember that our adversaries are going to do a counter move every time we make a move. And that's why our response to folks that are trying to do us harm or coming across our border has to be a multi-disciplined flexible approach.

SHAPIRO: I'd also like to ask your take on the Russia relationship. President Trump is scheduled to speak with Vladimir Putin this weekend. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, you're involved in the investigation into Russian hacking. Do you fear that President Trump will be too soft on Russia?

HURD: So I've - I learned something in my time in the CIA. Be nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys. Vladimir Putin and Russia are not our friends, they are our adversary. It was very clear that Russian intelligence were behind the hacking of the DNC - the Democratic National Committee - and the DCCC When...

SHAPIRO: We should also say DCCC is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

HURD: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

SHAPIRO: Go on, yeah.

HURD: This would be going down in history as the greatest covert action because it created a wedge, whether real or perceived, between the chief executive, the intelligence community and the American people.

SHAPIRO: And do you think President Trump understands that?

HURD: I am confident that his team around him like Mike Pompeo and Gen. Mattis understand that. And I think President Trump has a unique negotiating style, and I cannot comment on whether this is part of a broader negotiation or not, but I think we're going to find out in the next couple of days.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Will Hurd, thanks for your time.

HURD: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Hurd is a Republican who represents a Texas district that includes 800 miles of border with Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEACH HOUSE SONG, "MYTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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