Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on Border Chaos

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 24, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff (search) announced yesterday that his department is drafting a plan to deal with illegal immigration once and for all. The department will be examining patterns of illegal immigration, the availability of jail space, procedures for deporting illegal immigrants and the use of border agents and equipment.

Last week we took our show on the road to see the problem for ourselves. One of our stops — one of Sean's stops was the area covered by the El Paso sector of the border patrol, where last year alone they apprehended more than 104,000 illegal immigrants.

Here's some more of Sean's exclusive tour of the border with El Paso's assistant chief patrol agent, Robert Boatwright.


HANNITY: This is ground zero in the sense that it's very easy for someone to come here, to either get on a train, to get on that highway. And they have transportation hub, obviously, all throughout El Paso, which is the city which is right here. So it makes it simple in that sense for somebody who is desirous of getting in the United States and moving to perhaps another state.

ROBERT BOATWRIGHT, EL PASO ASSISTANT CHIEF PATROL AGENT: Right. And our enforcement posture reflects that, in that we maintain line watch positions in this area, a constant presence, if you would, as well as a series of ground sensors, overlook positions, response units giving us that defense in depth, as well.

HANNITY: So literally, we have 289 miles that you're covering on every given day. You're up here. You have a 24-hour presence up here. You've got the fence. I've seen multiple helicopters going back and forth. These are your helicopters.

I've watched your border guys driving back and forth here. You've got guys up here guarding the border. How many people do you have on at any one given time to monitor the 289 miles?

BOATWRIGHT: The numbers right now in the El Paso sector, we have slightly over 1,200 agents on duty.

HANNITY: If you're getting 375 people a day, how many do you think you might be missing? Or do you think you're missing many at all?

BOATWRIGHT: In many areas our enforcement efforts are very effective.


BOATWRIGHT: We know what we apprehend daily. Those are hard numbers, documentable facts.


BOATWRIGHT: It's hard to determine what the — what is getting through because as, in our defense in depth posture, we may be apprehending them inland. We may be apprehending them at one of our transportation checks...


BOATWRIGHT: ...at one of our checkpoints on the highways or even our interior operations.


ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: And joining us now for more is Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Senator, you've been very instrumental. Welcome to the show, once again, by the way.


COLMES: Helping increase the number of border patrol agents. I think 2,000 more border, is that correct?

HUTCHISON: Absolutely, we are committed to 2,000 more per year for the next five years.

COLMES: Let me ask you about Michael Chertoff, I think, has also come up with some very, very good ideas here, like they're going to use infrared equipment. I mean, there's a whole number of things that he is doing. More judges and lawyers to expedite deportations being addressed, doubling the number of fugitive search teams. Beds, which sound simple, but to detain people you needs beds. He's even addressing that. He is really on top of this, isn't he?

HUTCHISON: Yes. I'm very pleased, Alan, because I think for the first time, we're getting the message in this administration that we've got to enforce our borders. And I think there are a lot of reasons. But I think the recent emergencies and crises, I really appreciate what Secretary Chertoff has done.

I talked to the undersecretary today. And I said that this is just urgent. We can't talk about it any longer. And I said I really think we need to see those border patrol agents trained and on the job. We need to see that there is a difference.

COLMES: Let me ask you about this, because Secretary Chertoff has said that he's against the citizen militias, like the Minutemen, because he says the border isn't a place for people, and these are his words, to play as amateurs. Do you agree with him on that?

HUTCHISON: Well, I happen to think that the Minutemen have done something that they feel committed to. I sort of admire them. I don't think they have gotten out of line. They've just reported what they've seen, so that the law enforcement officers can come and apprehend people.

And I think that they have made a point, and the point is the right one, that we need help. We need help on the border. And the federal government needs to step up to the plate.

One other thing that I am working on is trying to give local law enforcement officials more power, for the federal government to deputize these local law enforcement officials so that we have help. We can't do it all with just the federal agents we have. We have 11,000, and that's not nearly enough.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Senator, I can tell you firsthand, having been down there last week, that these guys are doing a terrific job, but there's nowhere near the amount of agents that we need on the border. So it's a great first step, and I was really encouraged to hear Michael Chertoff's comments and the urgency that he feels towards this problem. I think it's the No. 1 area of vulnerability we have, and he seems to now be really putting this as a top priority.

Why does the state of Texas allow in-state tuition rates to go to illegal immigrants? And why does our own FDIC assist illegal immigrants in getting mortgages?

HUTCHISON: The state of Texas passed that law, and the reason they gave is because many of the children of illegal immigrants have gone to school in Texas, and they want to be encouraged to be able to get jobs and make a living and not go into crime.

HANNITY: Isn't that a bad — isn't that a bad idea, though? Isn't that rewarding illegal immigration? Well, if you're here anyway, you get the in-state tuition break.

HUTCHISON: Well, it is hard to explain to people who are hard-working parents whose children are not able to go to school or maybe they want to go to school in Texas and they can't get in-state tuition rates, because our tuition is very low in Texas.

But on the other hand, I know we are trying to encourage, actually, students to come from foreign countries and others are able to get in-state tuition.

HANNITY: Do you support it?

HUTCHISON: I can see why people would not appreciate that, because it's taxpayer subsidies.

HANNITY: Let me ask you one last question. Steve King, an Iowa Republican congressman, wants to build a fence along the entire Mexico-U.S. border. He seems to be getting a lot of traction with the idea. Would you support that?

HUTCHISON: I do think we need fences in strategic areas. Now many of that is — much of that is private property. But I think you're down in El Paso right now. You've seen how effective the fence can be. That fence has been a great deterrent since...

COLMES: Thank you, Senator. I think that's part of Michael Chertoff's plan, as well. It's part of what he's talking about.

HUTCHISON: And I think we should have fences in strategic places where we can stop some of the really bad traffic areas. So I think fences would be helpful, more border patrol, using more technology. I do think Michael Chertoff is a breath of fresh air here and I'm glad they're finally on it.

COLMES: Senator, we — we thank you for being with us tonight.

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