(ABC News) A Democratic congressman said President Donald Trump’s key campaign promise of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a “monumental waste of taxpayers’ money,” but Democrats should go along with it if means Republicans would agree to grant legal status to immigrants known as "Dreamers" who came to this country illegally as children.
“I think the wall is a monumental waste of taxpayers’ money, and it’s to build a monument to stupidity and it’s just idiotic,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Nov. 28, 2017.
“Having said that, if that’s what it’s going to take in order to put 800,000 young men and women in the country ... in a safe place and put them on course to full integration in our society... I say pay it,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez, who is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, likened the president’s demands for a border wall to holding the "Dreamers" hostage. And, he predicted that Republicans would suffer in the midterm elections as a result.
“Next November, we’ll deal with the ‘kidnappers’ at the election, at the polls,” Gutierrez said.
Stephanopoulos noted that White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said in his appearance on "This Week" Sunday that funding the border wall would not be enough and that there also need to be changes in two practices that enable legal immigration -- the visa lottery system and chain immigration.
When asked whether he’d be willing to accept those changes, Gutierrez accused the administration of moving the goal post because its true objective is to end legal immigration.
"Here's what they're saying to us, George, and we have to be very clear about it, and we are going to fight this: They want to end legal immigration to the United States," the congressman said. "They say, 'Let's build a wall to keep us safe. But then ... they say, ‘The lottery system, let's end it.' That's legal immigration to the United States."
“They want to end legal immigration and you know what, George,” Gutierrez said. “We have to fight that because it's the essence of who we are as a nation. It’s core to what it is to be American to have an immigration policy. We would not be a nation without immigrants and an immigration policy, and we have to push back.”
Gutierrez also addressed a statement he put out last week recounting that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers in a meeting Wednesday on Capitol Hillthat “the president’s campaign was not fully informed about the wall he was promising to voters.”
The Illinois congressman reiterated to Stephanopoulos his account of what Kelly said: “I was sitting right next to him, next to Mr. Kelly, and here's what he said. He said the president of the United States, when he was campaigning, made promises that were not fully informed. I wrote it down. I wrote it down. It was so astonishing to me that I immediately wrote it down. He said was not fully informed.”
Gutierrez added, “[Kelly] said, 'I've educated the president, and the president has evolved on the issue.' And when I asked General Kelly. 'What's a wall?' he said it could be the inhospitable terrain [on the U.S.-Mexico border]. It could be Border Patrol agents. It could be drones."