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Kobach: Illegal immigration constitutes emergency under ‘extraordinarily broad’ act

Although some Republicans have criticized President Trump's national emergency declaration, others endorse it. One of them is Kris Kobach, former Kansas secretary of state, who talks to Amna Nawaz about the “extraordinarily broad” nature of the National Emergencies Act, why a wall is a "force multiplier" and how we don’t know the true volume of illegal drugs coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Now perspective from someone who advocates for stricter policies on immigration and a vocal advocate for expanding the border wall.

    Kris Kobach is Kansas' former secretary of state.

    Mr. Kobach, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    I want to ask you. The president said earlier in the Rose Garden, "I don't need to do this," meaning declare a national emergency. He said he just wanted to get the wall built faster.

    So help us understand, what is the emergency here?

  • Kris Kobach:

    Well, listening to Attorney General Becerra talk, you know, I think he pointed out that reasonable people can disagree as to how urgent any emergency is.

    And reasonable people can disagree on whether the National Emergencies Act should be big enough to encompass what's going on today with President Trump's declaration.

    But the law is really, really clear, that basically the law says that a national emergency is something that the president deems a national emergency. And that's why it's been used 58 times; 31 national emergencies are still in effect. Did you know that there's a emergency still in effect that Bush put in place for the Belarus elections?

    There's one about Burundi that's in effect. And most Americans haven't felt any impact of those things at all. So, it really is an extraordinarily broad statute that Congress wrote in 1976.

    So, I believe that what President Trump did today clearly fits within the National Emergencies Act, because it's so broad.

    Now, we could have a debate about whether it should be that broad.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I'm sorry to interrupt. I know your time is limited.

    He's, legally, of course, allowed to, but by declaring an emergency, there's an insinuation there's an urgent need, there's a crisis in some way.

    I'm asking you to explain to us what that emergency is.

  • Kris Kobach:

    Yes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Why this needed to be done now.

  • Kris Kobach:

    Oh, OK, certainly, certainly.

    Well, as the president illustrated with the presence of the Angel families with him, we have had multiple thousands of Americans killed in the last decade by illegal aliens who either commit homicide or are drunk driving and then accidentally kill an American.

    Every one of the deaths could have been prevented if the wall had been in place, if the — our border were more secure. In addition, you have, of course, the many deaths from the drug smuggling that's occurring. And then you also have multiple terrorists who have come across the southern border into the United States. And that's well-documented. There have been multiple prosecutions of those people, some of those people.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, Mr. Kobach, I'm sorry again to interrupt.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I have got to push back on this.

  • Kris Kobach:

    Yes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Those criminal numbers you're talking about, those are — those are statistically insignificant. There's no evidence that a wall would have stopped any of them.

    The drug trafficking you mentioned, the vast majority of those come through legal ports of entry. The terror threat deemed by your own State Department last year was zero at the southern border.

  • Kris Kobach:

    No, the — the — there have been multiple terrorists.

    The numbers of terrorists that we have caught coming — we actually don't catch them coming across the border. We usually catch them in some other context. And then the Justice Department prosecutes them and we find out that came in that way.

    As far as drugs, you're incorrect. There's a misconception out there that because the majority of drugs that we apprehended in the past year came in at the ports of entry, therefore, the majority of drugs do come in at the port of entry.

    That's incorrect. The port of entry, we get to inspect every vehicle coming in. We have drug-sniffing dogs. We — there's a far greater sum — we don't know what it is because we only intercept about one-third of what comes across between the ports of entry.

    But to give you some statistics to back up what I'm saying that, in 1998, we deployed drones and aerial surveillance along the southern border. The apprehensions of drug smuggling between the ports of entry went up 45 percent. Was that because drug smuggling went up 45 percent? No. It's because we caught a larger number.

    So it's generally the consensus there is certainly as much coming between the ports of entry, if not more, than what we are apprehending at the ports of entry.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask very briefly now, you obviously would like to see a wall built. The president would like to see a wall built.

    The majority of Americans do not, though. Consistently in polling, more than 60 percent of Americans are opposed to a wall in any form.

    So, is it worth the president diverting billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to pay for a wall that only maybe a third of Americans even want to see?

  • Kris Kobach:

    I disagree a little bit with your polling.

    I — I have — in the sense that I have seen a zillion polls on this question. And it really does depend on how you frame the question. You can get 60 percent opposed. You can get 70 percent-plus in favor if you frame it in a way. It's one of those questions you can frame a million different ways.

    But suffice it to say that a large percent of Americans want this. And suffice it to say, if you ask Americans do they want a secure border where people who are — cannot smuggle drugs easily and terrorists cannot enter easily, they will say yes.

    A wall is a force multiplier. What it allows is, it allows — if you — imagine you have 10 agents, Border Patrol agents in a sector, and they have got no wall whatsoever in 30 miles.

    Well, they're going to have a hard time patrolling it. But if you have got 20 of those 30 miles covered with wall or a significant barrier that stops pedestrian traffic, then those 10 agents only really have 10 miles to police in a very aggressive way.

    And I have seen it myself on the border. I was just down there last week. That's exactly what's happening in Arizona. The agents have — they're able to use the barrier sections to with — and deploy fewer agents there, so then they can take the majority of the agents and put them where there is no barrier.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Understood, Mr. Kobach. You believe a wall would solve many of those problems.

    I apologize. And I appreciate your time very much.

  • Kris Kobach:

    I do.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, thanks for being with us.

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