At the Mosbacher Institute’s Conversations in Public Policy event on October 2, 2019, US Congressman Will Hurd, Representative for Texas Congressional District 23 and a Texas A&M graduate, spoke about immigration issues facing Congress.
The event, which was attended by approximately 550 people, began with Dr. Raymond Robertson, Director of the Mosbacher Institute, welcoming the audience and distinguished guests, including US Congressman Bill Flores, Representative for Texas Congressional District 17, and Mayor Karl Mooney of College Station.
Dr. Frank Ashley, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Bush School, who—like many members of the audience—knew and remembered Hurd from when he was Texas A&M student body president, had the pleasure of introducing the congressman.
During his lecture, Hurd talked about how immigration is influenced by conditions in Central America’s Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), where extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity, rising violence, and lack of trust in public officials push people to flee their countries for better opportunities. Hurd noted that these issues have also caused a shift in the demographic makeup of immigrants. Instead of unaccompanied men from Mexico, the southern border is now seeing vast numbers of families with children from the Northern Triangle countries. That shift is causing increasing pressure on the southern border, where facilities are inadequate to handle the influx of children.
Hurd presented two solutions. First, he proposed working to fix the underlying causes within the Northern Triangle. This would include appointing a special representative to the Northern Triangle, promoting economic opportunities by increasing investment in the region, and combatting regional violence. Hurd asserted that it would be a fraction of the cost to address the root problems there rather than paying to address the problems related to rising immigration here.
The second solution Hurd presented included reforming the legal immigration system and addressing the weaknesses in the asylum process. He recommends streamlining the DACA process, appointing more immigration judges, and ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are able to effectively work on immigration cases. Hurd also proposed that merit be defined as a will to contribute to the economy and culture of the United States, rather than basing immigration merit on traditional measures, such as education.
During the conversation portion of the program, Robertson and Hurd branched into the topic of international trade. Robertson described how his research indicates that the NAFTA countries have become a single economic unit, rather than competitors, and that working as economic allies would help all three countries be more competitive in the world market. Hurd expressed his optimism on the future of the USMCA but expressed worry that as 2020 inches closer, the trade agreement will be harder to pass. He closed his remarks by expressing worry that the United States has forgotten how important international trade is and that many Americans misunderstand the immigration and trade issues facing the United States. According to Hurd, effectively addressing these issues will require the coordination of the entire Western Hemisphere.