Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who also serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, said his recent deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border convinced him that President Trump’s controversial national emergency declaration to access billions of dollars to finance the construction of border wall was warranted.
“I put on my lieutenant colonel hat, was apolitical, but obviously I’m looking at this, getting the information I can. And 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 on “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Kinzinger, who was deployed at the border for two weeks, said his involvement in busting drug-smuggling operations and providing emergency assistance to migrants making the often-perilous journey on foot across an arid desert solidified his belief there’s a crisis along the border.
“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 said. “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.”
Despite noting the flow of migrant families heading towards the border “isn’t of itself a crisis,” Kinzinger said the drug smuggling and human trafficking that occurs along the frontier present a “security threat” to the nation. Although apprehensions of migrants trying to enter the country illegally have reached a 50-year-low, in recent months there’s been a surge in Central American families journeying north to the U.S.-Mexico border to flee the widespread poverty and violence in their native countries.
“It’s a security threat, with the amount of drugs coming over the border and the human trafficking that I’ve seen,” Kinzinger said.
According to U.S. government statistics, most seizures of illicit drugs by immigration authorities along the border occur at ports of entry, not in between them — the areas in which the White House wants to build a wall in.
With the national emergency proclamation — which is already being challenged byand by House Democrats — the White House says it can use $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the construction of a wall along the southwestern border. Through a separate executive order signed last week, the president will also be able to divert $2.5 billion from counternarcotics initiatives and $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund.
Unlikeand some Republicans, Kinzinger said he does not believe the White House’s move to bypass Congress’ power of the purse and declare a national emergency is unconstitutional. He added that he will not try to block the president’s declaration.
© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.