Among the big policy disagreements between the two Missouri candidates for U.S. Senate, this November is whether to build the border wall President Trump is demanding.
Since missing one of the President’s visits to Missouri in August of 2017, Republican Josh Hawley has vigorously supported most all of Trump’s priorities with a few exceptions.
He emphatically proclaimed to a gathering at the Missouri Farm Bureau last Friday that he stands with the President on the border wall issue. “I’m for building the wall,” said Hawley. “I am for securing our border. Look, I’m your chief law enforcement officer in this state right now. It’s my job to enforce our laws. And what I see going on at the southern border is just a matter of law enforcement.”
Hawley was elected to his very first elected position as Missouri’s Attorney General in 2016. He told the audience of farmers and ranchers that funding to build the wall needs to be secured and said border laws need to be enforced.
While talking about immigration, Hawley expressed support for a Trump administration plan to add a question to the 2020 Census asking people whether they’re U.S. citizens. He stated that too many people have been allowed into the country who don’t have skills and drive down wages. He said the needs of farmers who use immigrant laborers can be met through the U.S. visa system which limits the duration of a foreigner’s stay.
Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill is a noted skeptic of the idea of building a wall on the southern border. She visited a border area in Texas in February of 2017 and noted that border patrol personnel expressed a need for better technology and said extending the wall would require the acquisition of private land coveted by farmers who currently own it.
McCaskill also spoke before Farm Bureau members last Friday where she said the wall is far down the list of needs voiced by border security personnel. “Frankly, in some parts of the border they don’t want a wall, because they want to be able to have vision,” McCaskill said. “They need to be able to see.”
McCaskill is the ranking minority member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In March, she released a report along with other Democrats on the committee which found that additional personnel and technology are the top border security needs identified by agents. It said less than one-half of 1 percent of the solutions border patrol agents proposed for closing gaps along the southwest border referenced a “wall.”
The Democratic staff of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued a report in April 2017 which said the border wall could cost almost $70 billion to build and $150 million to maintain per year. An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security pegged the cost at $21.6 billion without figuring maintenance.
Since winning the Republican Senate nomination last week, Hawley has accused McCaskill of being in favor of illegal immigration and open borders while stumping around the state on a flatbed trailer.
McCaskill recoiled at such a suggestion while speaking to Farm Bureau members Friday. “It just makes me hopping mad when my opponent says I’m for open borders,” said McCaskill. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a prosecutor. I’m the only candidate in this race that’s looked at a jury in the eye and put criminals in prison. The only one. I believe in the rule of law.”
McCaskill was elected Jackson County Prosecutor in Kansas City in 1992.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CPB) employs 23,079 CBP officers and 19,437 Border Patrol agents. On an average day, it conducts 851 apprehensions between U.S. ports of entry.
After hearing from Hawley and McCaskill speak Friday, the Farm Bureau resoundingly endorsed Hawley of Senate by a margin of 82-4.