Top House Dem: Invest in Better Cell Service for Border Patrol Instead of Wall

A migrant from Honduras looks from the border fence into the U.S. side to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

WASHINGTON – House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) told PJM that she hopes President Donald Trump settles for building border barriers that are not as high as a “giant wall” while helping DREAMers as part of a deal to reopen the government.

Clark was asked if she would support a deal with Trump that includes legal status for DREAMers in exchange for the $5 billion in wall funding.

“We’re hoping for some sort of compromise. The wall is a bad idea. We have better technology. There are better things that we can spend our money on to improve security so I hope the president is open to doing some sort of barrier that is short of this giant wall he wants and will work with us to do things like get our DREAMers the security they need and deserve, so I think we’re waiting for his move,” Clark said during an interview at the EMILY’s List reception for members of the 116th Congress on Thursday.

“We already have fencing and barriers, but when we have Border Patrol agents that don’t even have cell phone service that’s where we should be investing our dollars, that sort of technology,” she added.

Clark attended a meeting about the government shutdown with Trump at the White House today.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was also asked if he would support the president’s wall funding request in exchange for granting legal protection to DREAMers, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that gave work permits to some people brought to the country illegally as children.

“Every time we try to do something for DREAMers, the right wing calls him ‘amnesty Donald’ and he backs off,” Schumer said. “We will wait to see if he is willing to do anything for DREAMers. Myself, Leader Pelosi, Dick Durbin and the DREAMers themselves have no faith in Trump.”

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) signaled that she might be open to supporting a wall funding deal that involves DREAMers even though she personally opposes Trump’s call for more border barriers of some sort.

“I’m not for the wall,” she said.

When asked if she would vote to fund the wall under any circumstance, Frankel replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a waste of money.”

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) told PJM he opposes funding additional border barriers and said legal status for DREAMers is a separate issue.

“The DREAMers have nothing to do with the president’s wall. As a matter of fact, we should be able to pass the DREAM Act out of the U.S. House of Representatives and, if Mitch McConnell wants to do the right thing, as many of the Republican senators have said that they support protecting the DREAMers, we can take that action in the U.S. Senate as well,” Lujan said.

“President Trump, through the use of his pen, took this disrespectful action towards DREAMers in America and he could very well reverse it. He shouldn’t be using them as pawns to negotiate for this ridiculous wall,” he added.

To support his position, Lujan cited his recent trip to the Antelope Wells Port of Entry in New Mexico; he said there was no running water.

“The water was contaminated. They had no drinking water. They had no water to bathe or to cook – not just for the asylum-seekers but also for the agents. That is no way to have facilities across the country and we should be talking about the ports of entry on the southern border of Mexico,” he said. “It’s also with Canada and also with our water ports as well – that’s where the investment of infrastructure and border security is absolutely necessary.”

Lujan said Trump could reopen government by signing the same bill that already passed the Senate, which included $1.3 billion for border security not including any concrete wall.

“There was a deal, clearly. When Mitch McConnell put a bill on the Senate floor that passed unanimously, I cannot imagine that he did not do that without the president’s support. President Trump decided to turn on Fox News and watch Sean Hannity and changed his mind,” he said of the bill that passed by voice vote before Christmas. “How can you work with someone like that? The president needs to own up, get the government opened up again and then see how we can negotiate with each other. So I’m still hopeful. I’m optimistic.”