Politics & Government

Congressman breaks with Trump on border wall, young immigrants

Rep. Roger Marshall visits with members of the Republican Pachyderm Club after a speech there Friday.
Rep. Roger Marshall visits with members of the Republican Pachyderm Club after a speech there Friday. The Wichita Eagle

In a speech otherwise laden with praise for President Trump, Rep. Roger Marshall broke ranks on immigration, questioning the feasibility of a mammoth border wall and saying mass deportation would wreck Kansas’ economy.

I don’t think Kansas can afford to put them all on a train and ship ’em back to Mexico. It would ruin our economy.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas

Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District, a sprawling, mostly rural and agrarian district that covers the western two-thirds of the state. He said the U.S. needs to revise its immigration policies and document those who come to the United States to work in the farms and feedlots.

“Three-fourths of the undocumented immigrants now are people that came here documented,” he said. “Part of it is the process is so onerous to maintain that work visa, and also just the sheer number of work visas are too low in a number of cases. It’s basically set up for migrant workers, and they’re seasonal.

“Our cows have to be milked for 365 days a year, and the feedlots need workers 24/7 as well, 365 days a year. So they’re going to have to get back in line somehow.”

Marshall also called for a measured response to the issue of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children, citing a friend of his son who crossed the border with her family at age 4 or 5.

“Young kids that were brought here, my heart pours out to them,” he said. “My own son Cal texted me at 2 in the morning to ask me if the girl he took to the prom last year was going to get shipped back home, through no fault of her own. It certainly hit close to home for me. So I do think we have to have compassion.”

Marshall made his comments in a question-and-answer session Friday with the Republican Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Marshall emphasized that he supports border security, but through means other than the president’s promise to build a giant wall across the southern border and make Mexico pay the construction cost.

“He (Trump) has been quoted multiple times saying he promised the American public he would do it and by gosh he’s going to do it,” Marshall said. “Don’t know how we’re going to pay for it.

“I’ve been waiting for Mexico to step up, but so far they haven’t,” he said, eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Marshall said Border Patrol officers and some of his colleagues on the House Homeland Security Committee have told him that increased electronic surveillance, including aerial drones and pole-mounted cameras, is a better way to go.

“Most of the border guards say they want to be able to see people coming at them,” he said. “There are multiple ways to do it.

“I very much want to secure the border, but I’m not sure a wall’s the best way to do it. I don’t know if it’s even feasible. We’d have to deal with some of the Native American land and their border issues as well.”

Marshall did praise Trump for a decline in the number of border crossings since the president took office in January.

He also praised the president’s handling of the economy and his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord that sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by factories, power plants and automobiles worldwide.

Marshall said he sees climate change as “a concern,” although he doesn’t think it’s been conclusively proven. He also said it’s not a top-of-shelf issue for him, although he does support leaving the planet cleaner than we found it.

The problem with the Paris accord is that it required immediate action by the United States to clean up while deferring action by other countries, he said.

“It allows the two elephants in the room, those elephants being China and India, the biggest polluters in the world, to have basically no responsibility for another 10 to 20 years,” he said.

He also said the pact would drive up energy costs and be a “job killer” for America.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas