Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is a fairly moderate member of the GOP establishment. He hasn’t typically been a strong ally of President Donald Trump, but he is now standing alongside the president when it comes to the recent declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.
The Air Force Times reported that Kinzinger’s decisiveness on the issue stemmed from what he personally experienced during a recent two-week deployment to the southern border in Arizona as part of the Air National Guard, of which Lt. Col. Kinzinger is a member who pilots RC-26 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
Prior to the recent deployment, Kinzinger was undecided on whether he supported the president’s national emergency declaration. However, upon his return, the congressman shared what he had seen that helped him make up his mind in an appearance on CBS‘ “Face The Nation” Sunday.
Host Margaret Brennan asked Kinzinger if what he had seen at the border constituted a “national emergency” in his view, to which he replied, “Yeah I think it does.”
Kinzinger noted that he had adopted an apolitical mindset while serving on the deployment, but couldn’t help but collect and analyze the information he received in the process of flying the surveillance missions along the border.
“I think if this was just an issue of immigration, it wouldn’t constitute a national emergency, but what I saw was really disturbing,” Kinzinger said. “Let me give you just a couple of quick examples, and I was just a small part of all the operations that were being done.”
“We found at one point a woman hunkered down in the desert because her coyotes who brought her over deserted her because they wanted to get away,” he explained. “Had she actually not been found by us, I don’t know if she’d been able to find her way home.”
“So yeah, she got picked up by Border Patrol, she’s going to be deported, but that was a way better option than being one of the 200, at least, bodies they end up finding in the desert every year,” he continued.
“And keep in mind, I’ve done this — you know, we had a mission where we found 70 pounds of methamphetamines on somebody that was coming over, and I’m just a very small part of that,” Kinzinger added.
The congressman/national guardsman noted that this was his fourth deployment with the Guard to the border — but his first deployment to Arizona — and said, “Texas, by the way, I was there under President Obama. So the Guard’s mission on the border is nothing new.”
Brennan pointed out that border apprehensions are down significantly, and wondered how that factored into the justification for the deployment of the military and national emergency declaration.
Kinzinger replied that, at least in his experience, there wasn’t really that much of a lull in border crossings or apprehensions, save for the increasing number of illegal immigrants who have figured out how to game the asylum process to avoid apprehension and deportation.
“I’m saying, what — from my experience there were many, many groups that we would see on technology — with camera, radar or something like that — that we could not go address because there were not enough Border Patrol agents,” Kinzinger revealed.
“These agents sometimes left to take a truck and then walk two miles through terrible terrain to get to these groups, only to have them run while they’re already exhausted and they get lost in that chaos. So is it down? Maybe,” he added.
After explaining how the asylum process was being abused, Kinzinger said, “But I’ll tell you what I saw was a lot of people coming over the border, a lot of drugs on the border and a lot of human trafficking. I mean, these coyotes that would get paid a lot of money to bring groups over and then desert them to save their own backside. It was extremely disturbing.”
Brennan then pressed once again on the emergency declaration and asked whether or not Kinzinger would vote to support or block it when it came up in the House. Kinzinger replied, “Yeah I won’t vote to try to block it. Look, I — I wish this would have happened a different way. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform. I think Republicans, the Democrats both have good ideas on immigration that we ought to all adopt.”
The host continued to argue the point of the constitutionality of the declaration. Kinzinger said, “(I)f this was just about immigration, I would disagree. I do think this is a security threat. It’s a security threat with the amount of drugs coming over the border and the human trafficking that I’ve seen. And again, in Arizona, I think they said last year there were 200 bodies at least that they found in the desert.”
After spending two weeks on the border as part of a National Guard deployment, Rep. Kensinger is now firmly in President Trump’s camp when it comes to addressing the diminished security situation, which includes the construction of walls and barriers.
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