EXCLUSIVE: Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar, the lone pro-life Democrat serving in the House who has been outspoken about deteriorating conditions at the border, is sounding off about recent remarks made by one of his progressive colleagues and inaction from President Joe Biden’s administration to secure the southern border.
Last weekend, following a decision from the Supreme Court to overturn federal protections for abortion granted under Roe v. Wade, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., – arguably one of the most progressive members in the House – suggested in an Instagram video that the Democratic Party should “reassess if it’s appropriate” for pro-life Democrats to continue serving in their roles.
Cuellar spoke to Fox News Digital on Thursday, offering remarks about the ongoing immigration crisis and troubles at the border, as well as his being pro-life and a reaction to Ocasio-Cortez’s recent remarks.
“I’m a pro-life Democrat,” Cuellar said. “I know it’s a decision that, unfortunately, divides a lot of people. It’s a very emotional issue and I understand that.”
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Often a voice of reason among members of his own party, Cuellar said the remarks from Ocasio-Cortez, who backed Jessica Cisneros in her primary challenge against him to represent Texas’s 28th Congressional District, were “laughable” and pointed to the textbook definition of a progressive.
“Who is she to decide what’s the standard of being a real Democrat,” he said. “If you look at what we do as members of Congress, we represent a district – she represents her district, I represent my district – and that’s the way it should be.”
“I would ask her to look up the definition of a progressive in the dictionary,” he continued. “It says that a progressive is one that’s open to new ideas. The only thing wrong with some of these new progressives is that they’re not open to the new ideas, they’re only open to their ideas. And somebody down the line came up with a standard that the only standard there should be is ‘you have to agree with me, and if you don’t agree with me, then you’re the pro-enemy’ and that’s what makes it so hard to work in Congress because people set these artificial standards when we ought to be looking at how do we work together.”
Just days after a semitrailer containing dozens of dead migrants was found abandoned in San Antonio, Cuellar discussed why he believes the Democratic Party has failed to implement meaningful immigration reform amid the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
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“They are working on some things that they feel is the right thing to do,” he said. “I agree with some of the issues, I disagree with some of the solutions.”
Describing his own metric, and another one used by some members of the Biden administration, Cuellar said many administration officials are only concerned with “how fast can you move them from the border into the interior” when processing those coming to America illegally.
“The metric I use, you look at what the law is, and you enforce that law,” he said. “Under that, there will be some that stay under the current asylum laws because that’s what the law says. If you get 100 people before an immigration judge, that judge will probably only allow 10 to 12% [to remain]. So my question is, why are we allowing 100% of the people when we should only be allowing 10 to 12%, according to the immigration judges. That’s the issue. There are some people that believe in open borders, I do not believe in open borders. There are some people that believe in getting rid of border patrol, getting rid of ICE. I don’t believe in that.”
“I think we need to provide more for our border patrol and ICE,” he added. “If you look at what’s happening at the border right now, Laredo, or even the Valley, 60% of the border patrol agents in my sector are in border processing centers doing logistics for migrants or taking care of the migrants. Sixty percent of them. Then another 10% of them are doing administrative work or outreach. That leaves only 30% of all the border patrol agents in my sector, or in the Valley, that are actually manning the checkpoints or the border itself at the river.”
Further describing the issues with “man power” and the excessive capacity of commercial trucks coming through checkpoints, Cuellar said America does not “have the right technology at the checkpoints because there are some people in the administration that don’t want to put that type of technology or resources on checkpoints.”
Cuellar suggested the implementation of certain X-ray technology could have prevented the deaths of the migrants found in the abandoned truck.
“If you look at the non-intrusive X-rays that we have at the ports of entry, that X-ray at a checkpoint would’ve stopped what happened,” he said. “They would have found people right away if they had the right technology… Those border patrol agents are trying to do their job, but it’s very difficult for them to do their job.”
When asked about a recent report from The Associated Press that found roughly 1.7 million Americans had changed their party affiliation over the past 12 months – with two-thirds of those going to the GOP and 630,000 switching to the Democratic Party – Cuellar suggested Democrats should change their tune as it relates to the issues most important to Americans ahead of the midterm elections in the fall.
“It should bring alerts to Democrats that you cannot be for open borders, you cannot be against oil and gas, you cannot favor getting rid of border patrol and ICE,” he said. “I say all that because I, in a primary against a lefty, used all that. I hit her for being open borders, I hit her for being against oil and gas jobs. I hit her for trying to get rid of border patrol and ICE. And remember, this was a Democratic primary, and in South Texas, I won those counties along the border with 80% or so using [those] issues, and being for the Second Amendment also. I used those issues that I know are important to South Texas.”