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Texas Rep. Will Hurd Says He Hopes To Preserve DACA

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we're going to talk with one member of the House who has been working on a bipartisan plan to allow young immigrants to stay in the U.S. Will Hurd is a Republican from Texas, and his district includes the largest stretch of border of any member of Congress. Welcome back to the program.

WILL HURD: Thanks for having me on again. It's always a pleasure.

SHAPIRO: Now that president Trump has rejected one bipartisan immigration proposal, how does that affect the negotiations that you are a part of, especially after he earlier promised to sign any bill that lawmakers could agree to?

HURD: Well, the strategy that we're taking here is let's put something forward that's thoughtful and makes sense and secures the border and has a permanent legislative fix for the 1.2 kids that were brought here by no fault of their own.

SHAPIRO: You're saying 1.2 million. Other accounts have said 700,000, 800,000.

HURD: Well, the 1.2 is based on if you were here by January 1, 2014, and were under the age of 18. That's the population that I'm talking about. And one of the things that Congress has proven over the last couple of years that they don't do well - we don't do comprehensive and partisan well. So let's take a different tack. Let's be narrow, and let's be bipartisan. And solving a narrow problem builds trust, build momentum to address some of these other issues.

SHAPIRO: And are you confident that if you get that bipartisan deal, the president will be onboard? Last week he wasn't.

HURD: Well, look. The key for us here in the House is let's put legislation forward, and let's make sure everybody's aware of what we're trying to do and what we're trying to solve. I think, you know, people are frustrated that it's 2018 and we don't have operational control of the border. I know a little something about that with more border than any other member of Congress. So we're - in our bill, we're saying, let's secure the border by 2020, and let's fix this DACA situation.

SHAPIRO: Your proposal preserves DACA and also requires a mile-by-mile analysis of the border, then authorizes physical barriers to be built in places where federal officials deem it necessary by, as you've said, 2020. Do you think that would satisfy President Trump and more conservative members of your own party who have been chanting build the wall for years now?

HURD: Well, you'd have to talk to President Trump on his opinion on this. But for me, this concept of a smart wall is something that I've been promoting for a while, and nobody has ever really disagreed. The key - what we should be focused on is not an individual tool, but we should be focused on outcomes. And how do we get operational control of that border?

The reason we haven't done this in the past is because we haven't looked at all 2,000 miles of border at the same time. And so you can't have a one-size-fits-all solution because every mile needs something different. And so let's be smart about this. Let's be cost-effective about this. And that's what this legislation - this bipartisan legislation is attempting to do.

SHAPIRO: President Trump has called for addressing immigration issues beyond the border, and one of the things he said is that other countries are not sending their best people and that the U.S. needs a merit-based migration system instead of family reunification or a lottery. Do you agree with him on that?

HURD: Well, look. If we want to have those conversations, let's have those conversation. But we're not going to be able to come to some agreement if there needs to be a change or not by January 19.

SHAPIRO: So January 19, as you've said, midnight Friday is the deadline for the government to shut down. How confident are you that lawmakers can pass a bipartisan bill to address immigration and fund the government by then?

HURD: Well, I think it's still a little premature to talk about a government shutdown. You know, just in my short time here in Congress, we've had these conversations a few times and have always been willing to prevent that from happening. The good thing is, up here, no one is really interested in shutting the government down. And so let's work together. Let's think about this solution in a bipartisan way so that we can get it off the table and start focusing on issues like infrastructure, things like that.

SHAPIRO: Do you anticipate another short-term funding measure to avert a shutdown before an immigration deal gets passed?

HURD: I think that is an option. You know, whether, you know - again, between now and Friday, there's going to be a whole lot of conversations going on. And you know, all of the options are going to be on the table.

SHAPIRO: Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, thank you very much.

HURD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.