Transcript: Rep. Henry Cuellar on

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas that aired Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Henry Cuellar. He represents a border district in South Texas, and he joins us this morning from Laredo. Congressman, I know you feel strongly about what’s happening in your backyard. I wonder if both you and your constituents support busing these migrants up and down the East Coast?

REP. HENRY CUELLAR: Look, you know, first of all, we need solutions and not theater. By sending off– folks off to New York and Chicago, it does bring attention, but I- we want to focus more on solutions on the border. We got to give Border Patrol, we got to give ICE, Homeland Security the equipment- you know, making sure they have everything where they can enforce the law, because if we don’t have repercussions at the border, we’re going to continue getting 8,000 people a day. And let me mention one more thing, Margaret, you know, they might get two buses a day in some of those cities. Just for my hometown in Laredo, we’re sending out 21 to 26 buses a day out of Laredo, just to give you an idea of what’s happening here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right- understood the volume, but of course, in some of these places like Martha’s Vineyard, there aren’t even, you know, migration centers, and there was no coordination. Is that the part you’re objecting to?

REP. CUELLAR: Yeah, look, after all, the migrants are human beings, and we’ve got to treat them like human beings that are being used as political pawns to get- to get publicity. But at the same time, you know, I represent some of the poorest counties along the border- in the nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, I know you have shared with us some video of what’s happening in your district, that law enforcement officers have shared with you some pictures, some video that our viewers are seeing right now. Is law enforcement getting the resources that they need?

REP. CUELLAR: No, look, you know, the men and women in green, the men and women from Homeland, they need to get the support. They are good men and women, and what they need to do is have two things. One, they need to get more personnel, and we’re adding more personnel in the appropriations bill. They need to get the equipment, they need to get- but- they need to get help. But the most important thing is they gotta be able to enforce the repercussions because if you don’t enforce–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –What does that mean? What does that mean, repercussions? Are you talking about the fact that many of these migrants that are being bused are from countries like Venezuela where the U.S. cannot deport them because of diplomatic relations being so strained?

REP. CUELLAR: Look, you know, right now we’re getting people from Saudi Arabia, China, India, Bangladesh, and of course, Cuba- and Venezuela. There are certain folks, you know- the countries that might not accept some of the people, you got to look at asylum. But most of the people coming in don’t apply for asylum. We’ve got to do, as your next guest is going to say, Secretary Jeh Johnson–he treated the people with respect. But at the end of the day, he enforced the law, and he returned people. And one of the things that this administration is not doing is they’re showing- he showed people going and landing in the countries in Honduras and El Salvador to show that there’s repercussions. Margaret, when was the last time you saw- you saw a picture or video of people going back. You only see people coming in, and you’ve got to have words along with actual enforcement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. I mean, it’s pretty complicated. But Title 42 still is in place. There is expelling of migrants happening. It sounds like what I hear you saying is you want the White House or higher level officials to go and make these public statements. Vice president Harris when she was asked about this pointed right back to people with your job, lawmakers, to go rewrite the laws and pass immigration reform. What actually needs to be done, and how do you respond to that?

REP. CUELLAR: Look, there are enough, and with all respect to the VP, there are enough laws on the book right now that can return people back. Secretary Johnson, your next guest, did it the right way. He treated people with dignity, but he returned people, and he showed images of people being returned. Because right now, the- the cartels are- are using people because they make let’s say $8,000 a person. In two years with all the people that have come in, that get away secluded, that’s about 4 million individuals. You multiply that by $8,000 and that shows you how much these bad guys being enriched at the sake of these human beings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, on that point, the Homeland Security secretary was on this program back in July after those 53 migrants died in the most tragic smuggling incident in this country. And he said it is possible, because of how sophisticated these smugglers have gotten, to bypass U.S. checkpoint sometimes. Is it that the framing of this conversation is completely wrong, that it’s not just people walking across, that it is very sophisticated criminal enterprises?

REP. CUELLAR: Look, everybody that comes across is somehow controlled by the- by the bad guys. I mean, people just don’t happen to walk across a river or across the border, it’s all controlled by the migrants. Every sector, for example, along the border is controlled by some sort of cartel across. Yes, they’re very sophisticated. Yes, they got the money. Yes, they do counterintelligence. What happened to those 53 migrants, we don’t have a checkpoint that’s big enough to handle what we’re seeing, so the bad guys were able to use that checkpoint, because we haven’t put the resources on that checkpoint like we need to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know you’ve shared images with us of some of the coyotes, some of the smugglers who have gotten these trailers filled with people across, but there is interdiction taking place. I know you know that. What are you saying is needed?

REP. CUELLAR: Well, what I’m saying is, if you look at the border patrol sectors in my area, 60% of the Border Patrol agents are in border processing centers, that is they’re taking care of migrants. 10% of them are doing administrative work. That leaves only 30% of the Border Patrol doing the work, 30%. Therefore, large numbers coming in will be crossing, and then you also have more deaths out there, because there’s less Border Patrol agents saving– Border Patrol needs help. Men and women in green need help. No ifs, no buts about that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, lastly, you know, one of the bigger problems in this country right now is the economy and the worker shortage that we have. I wonder if this is part of that. If you have people who are desperate for economic opportunity coming here and America needs workers, isn’t there some way to make this work for America?

REP. CUELLAR: Absolutely. I support a guest worker plan. I support a way that you can, and we passed that from the House. We’re waiting for our Senate to get that done. And I will tell you that if we have people under a guest worker plan, then Border Patrol’s job will be done easier because of people looking for a job will come in the legal way, and then Border Patrol can focus on the bad people. So, it would help us on security. So, we need to make our legal system work better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Congressman, thank you for your insights.

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