Ron Johnson Says ‘Better Barriers Work’

Congressman Said He Shares President's Frustration Over Government Shutdown

Sen. Ron Johnson
Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Responding to questions about illegal immigration, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said he supports barriers at the border as well as other security measures while lamenting the shutdown as a drain on the economy.

Because most trafficked drugs enter the country through the ports of entry, Johnson said more agents and better inspection devices are needed to stem the tide, and reiterated his stance that “better barriers work.”

In an interview with WPR’s Rob Ferrett and Derrell Connor on “Central Time,” Johnson laid out his stance and chided Democrats for making an about-face on immigration policy, tying it to President Donald Trump’s election.

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This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Rob Ferrett: We’re about a month into the government shutdown. What are you currently working on, looking at and hearing about on the U.S. Senate floor?

Ron Johnson: First of all, I share the president’s frustration.

I’m chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. We’ve held 30 hearings on border security. Better barriers work. In the four sectors where we have them, illegal immigration has dropped by 90 to 95 percent, so that is part of what we need to do and it’s one of the first steps we have to take.

Democrats have supported it in the past. They supported $8 billion in better barrier funding in the 2013 immigration bill, $40 billion-plus in terms of border security — so, they’re just being disingenuous when they won’t provide funding just because it’s President Trump.

That being said, I hate shutdown politics. When we shut the government down it costs the government more. It hurts our economy.

And so, what I’m trying to do is change the dynamic. I introduced the Shutdown Fairness Act, which would just pay people that are actually being forced to work. I’m trying to get all my Republican senators to co-sponsor that to show the president that this is where the Republican Senate wants to be. I already have 20 co-sponsors on that.

It seems like Democrats believe they have a popular opinion on their side. And they’re just completely dug in. I hope they don’t remain dug in; I hope we can end this shutdown as quickly as possible.

RF: With your position on the Homeland Security Committee, we hear about among the government employees going unpaid — TSA agents, Coast Guard, other key homeland security personnel — does this worry you in particular that maybe you’re going to start losing people who are going to go find other jobs?

RJ: It concerns me a great deal.

We’re having a hard time filling the positions that are funded for Customs and Border Protection officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, as well. So, no, this is not good.

I thank Transportation Security Administration agents for their service every time I go to the airport, particularly now for hanging in there. I would certainly understand they would start getting pretty upset.

We’re seeing people calling in sick and maybe some work slowdowns; that’s something we need to be concerned about.

RF: With border security getting all the attention, is there another priority that’s getting set aside for all this?

RJ: Well, I ran because we’re mortgaging our kids’ future. We have to take our debt and deficit seriously.

I’ve always said economic growth is the No. 1 component of that solution, which is why I supported the tax plan. That is a flawed plan; it’s not as good as it should have been, so we need to fix our tax reform, but we need to keep American businesses competitive, so our economy keeps growing.

We really do need to seriously take a look at the fact that we’re mortgaging our kids’ future and address that sooner rather than later. But unfortunately, on a bipartisan basis, people are just whistling past the graveyard and that.