U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border was a major focus of the Congresswoman’s latest remote outreach to constituents hosted Tuesday evening.
During a telephone town hall on Oct. 12 Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, covered a range of subjects, from ongoing works for health care to her stance against vaccination mandates. She also touched on her visit last month to the country’s southern border in Texas, where she said she met with individuals both on the security and humanitarian sides of the issue.
“There is nothing in my mind that is radical about controlling our border. Every major developed country in the world does so,” Herrera Beutler said. “We should always treat people fairly and with compassion, but I also think our laws matter.”
Herrera Beutler said over the past few months she’s spoken to local law enforcement in her district who have said a recent federal policy at the border has led to increased drug activity along the Interstate 5 corridor.
“This is alarming and it’s why securing our southern border actually does really matter to Southwest Washington,” Herrera Beutler said.
The Congresswoman also touched on immigration in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she was told at an immigration processing facility that around 20% had the disease.
Herrera Beutler credited former president Donald Trump’s administration for a decrease in the illegal border influx she is against.
“Love or hate the last president, and I know that’s a loaded statement,” Herrera Beutler said, “One of the things we did see was some lows that we hadn’t seen in a while with regard to immigration. Illegal immigration.”
She noted President Joe Biden’s administration ended the “remain in Mexico” policy where immigrants had to wait south of the border while their claims were processed and adjudicated. The current policy provides “really no consequences” for immigrants who do not show up for their immigration court date, she said.
The Congresswoman said although she could cast blame on Democratic politicians who are pushing for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) there are instances where Republicans advocated for tighter borders without anything to show for it post-election.
“Both parties on the extreme are very guilty of using the issue of immigration to win elections,” Herrera Beutler said. “Meanwhile, I think it’s at the cost of our economy, our health and safety, and even the immigrants who are trying to come here.”
Border security would help combat the addiction and overdose epidemics, Herrera Beutler said. She mentioned the U.S. saw more than 93,000 overdoses in 2020, the most ever recorded in a year.
Herrera Beutler said she co-founded the House Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force this year to promote policies that address addiction. She mentioned two policies in particular — the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which she said increased non-opioid pain management resources and telehealth services, and the IMPROVE Addiction Care Act, part of which would increase the number of providers for addiction treatment and recovery.
The Congresswoman also addressed recent infrastructure efforts that are going through the federal Legislature. Though Herrera Beutler said she would support the $1 trillion “traditional” infrastructure bill, she said she would not back the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act which has more of a social welfare focus. She said both Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bills would need to move forward together.
The $3.5 trillion bill isn’t all bad, Herrera Beutler said, pointing to a child care tax credit as a positive portion of the bill. She added the bill is the “most expensive piece of legislation Congress has ever considered.”
Herrera Beutler said the larger bill would raise taxes on upper and middle-income families as well as small businesses, adding it would likely lead to “out of control inflation.”
“There really isn’t a choice right now to vote for the smaller bill (itself),” Herrera Beutler said.
Related to infrastructure, the Congresswoman also touched on plans to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River. She said the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project, formed to develop a plan for the replacement, has plans to produce the first blueprints in January.
“I am all for upgrading that structure in a manner that will reduce congestion and get you to work faster, or the doctor, or wherever it is you’re going in Portland (for),” Herrera Beutler said.
The Congresswoman noted the failed Columbia River Crossing project of the last decade involved light rail rapid transit, something the majority of Southwest Washington residents were against. She added estimates at the time of that project projected the bridge to be at capacity by the time it opened.
She said those issues are at the top of her mind as she talks with administrators of the project about what the new project will look like.
“To this point (project administration) has heard me, but at this point we need to remain vigilant,” Herrera Beutler said.