While 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador has had no comment to Idaho reporters for the past week-plus on immigration, despite repeated inquiries as House Republicans wrestle with the issue, he did make some comments on Thursday to a group of Washington, D.C. reporters from publications including Newsmax, CNS News, Reuters and the Daily Signal assembled for a “Conversations with Conservatives” session hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
Labrador arrived about 22 minutes into the 48-minute session, after most of the discussion of immigration was over, but still responded to some immigration-related questions.
The first question to which Labrador responded came from reporter John Gizzi of Newsmax, who asked the group about the “sheer emotion” that’s being expressed over family separations at the border. “Are you feeling pressure at home as a result of the reports that children are being separated from their parents?” he asked. “Is there the same kind of emotional outburst that one would see in hearing the reports that come out of various components of the press?”
Labrador was the second to respond to the question.
“Yes, we are all receiving phone calls, and if you don’t react to those pictures you’re not human,” Labrador said. “I mean, you have to understand that watching those pictures is devastating.”
He went on: “But I also want the media to concentrate on the other pictures that I have seen, the pictures of the rape tree in Mexico, northern Mexico, where girls are being raped and they know that that is the price that they have to pay to come to the United States.”
He apparently was referring to reports of rampant sexual assault against women and girls making the trek through Mexico to the U.S., including some reports that victims’ garments were hung on trees.
Labrador continued, “The pictures of the children that are dying in trafficking incidents. The children that are being lost because we have allowed a culture that has increased illegal immigration into the United States and that has encouraged families to leave their children alone, to actually send them on these trips that are hundreds and hundreds of miles by themselves. You have children that are coming to the United States that are as young as 5 years old and younger, all on their own.”
Labrador said far more migrant children who came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors are now in federal detention facilities than the roughly 2,000 who have been separated from their parents by authorities at the border. “So think about if you’re a parent: Would you send your child for hundreds and hundreds of miles with these traffickers, these people that are evil people that are doing harm to them during the trip? So don’t just think about the kids at the detention facilities. Think about all the children.”
He added, “What the media is trying to do right now is to portray, they want to agree with the Democrats that the policy should be catch-and-release. Remember that, what the Democrats want here is catch-and-release. They don’t really care about the families. They want to have no enforcement of immigration law.”
Labrador cited a recent poll by The Economist and YouGov that he said showed most Americans disagree with Democrats on immigration policy. “The bottom line is that only 19 percent of the American people support the Democrat position,” he said. “The vast majority of the American people understand that we have to have a zero-tolerance policy for people coming to the United States. What they want is they want to keep the families together while they’re being detained, and that’s what we’re trying to do as Republicans, because if you allow these children, if you allow catch-and-release to happen, you will see more children raped, more children murdered, more children die because of the bad policies of the previous administration.”
In response to other questions, he also was critical of the House GOP leadership’s handling of the various immigration reform bills, saying the House Judiciary Committee should have been allowed to vote on the original proposal from Chairman Bob Goodlatte that he co-sponsored. “This is exactly what’s broken with Congress,” Labrador said.
He said whether or not the two bills that were up for consideration late last week passed - one was voted down, and the second was delayed - he believed progress was being made. “I think the conversation is going to be ongoing,” Labrador said. “Because I think we are closer than is reflected by the media. We are not quite there, but I think we could actually get to an agreement on something.”