Program: Al Punto with Jorge Ramos
Content: Interview with Congressman Raúl Labrador
Air Date: Sunday, September 8, 2013
JR: Jorge Ramos
RL: Raúl Labrador
JR: Congressman Raúl Labrador, thank you very much for being with us and for returning to the program.
RL: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be with you again.
JR: Congressman, before talking about the immigration issue, I would like to ask you about Syria. Have you decided what to do? Are you going to vote in favor of an attack by the United States on the government of Bashar al-Assad?
RL: Right now I’m—I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do. I’m thinking that I’m going to vote no. I have not seen any evidence from this administration or from the leaders of my party that there is sufficient evidence for us to attack the al-Assad government. And, well, in my opinion, I don’t think that we, the United States, should be the world’s policeman. We’ve already had problems in Afghanistan, in Iraq. We were—we’ve been involved in other parts of that area, and I don’t think we should get involved in more problems like this.
JR: But have you seen—?
RL: So, but I—until I get back this next week and see all the evidence that the administration has, I’m not going to make a final decision. But right now I don’t think there’s any way I’m going to be able to vote for this.
JR: Congressman Labrador, how does this—this new conflict with Syria—affect the debate about immigration reform? ¿Do you think that it will set it back in Congress? How does the timing work out? What do you think?
RL: I think so. I think we have the situation in Syria, we have the monetary situation, we have the situation with what’s called the debt ceiling, which is the ceiling of the debt that we have in the United States. All these things are now coming forward. They are the things that we have to do immediately, right now. And unfortunately, I think that is going to delay the immigration debate a little.
JR: So when you say that this is going to delay it, does this mean that the idea that a lot of people, both Democrats and Republicans, had, that there was going to be immigration reform in 2013, may not happen?
RL: I thought that we were going to have a de—
JR: Of course. And the problem—
RL: Excuse me.
JR: —Congressman Labrador, is that if it doesn’t get done in 2013, then later, in 2014, it’s going to be very complicated because there will be elections, people will be thinking about other things.
RL: I agree with you completely. I think that if we don’t do it now, in 2013, it’s not going to be—it’s not going to happen in 2014. And that means that we’re going to have to wait until 2015. So now, that time is—it’s becoming a lot shorter. We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be able to have this debate. A lot of us thought that the debate was going to be in October, but now, with the problems that we’re having internationally and also here in this country, I don’t see how we’re going to be able to have this debate until—until November. And I really don’t know if it will be possible to do it in November.
JR: Congressman, one of the reasons we have invited you to be on the program is that your point of view influences a lot of other Republicans who are deciding whether to vote for or against immigration reform. My question is whether you are in favor of immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. What is your position?
RL: What I do agree with, Jorge, is that we should have immigration reform that first solves the problem that we have on the border and that we have within the country with people who are here illegally, so that we don’t have this problem again in ten years. Once we solve this, I think we can provide legalization to people who are here illegally. And what we have to do is not to create a second-class group where they can never be citizens. But we shouldn’t offer them a special path either, where they can become citizens just because they are here illegally.
JR: That’s not very clear to me, Congressman. So you would be in favor of legalizing the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. But what happens with the idea of giving them citizenship? Would you give it, for example, only to the DREAMERs, and not to the rest?
RL: No. I would give it—I would give them the same opportunity that we now give to any person who enters the States legally. If they enter the United States through legal means, they can become citizens by—in two ways: Either through their family, or through their job. And what I would do is that I would give that same opportunity to the 11 million who are here, so that they could work it out through those two paths, but without making a—a special route or a special path for them that wouldn’t be available for other people who enter the United States legally.
JR: Congressman, let’s talk a little about math, about arithmetic. If there had to be a vote in the United States Congress, say, in the next month or the next two months, do you think there would be enough Republicans to support legalization?
RL: No. I don’t think it would pass. Immigration reform is something about which we have to have a good debate. We have to convince people that it’s a good thing. For example, right now I’m working on a reform of our process for bringing people here to work. And there are a lot of Republicans who don’t agree with me. I think we should have more immigrants, that we should have more people working legally in the United States, and speed up the number of visas that are available. There are a lot of Republicans who don’t agree with me, and in fact there are a lot of Democrats who don’t agree with me about this because they think that unions and other people want those numbers to be really, really small. So I think it’s a debate that we have to have, and at this time I don’t think the votes are there in the House of Representatives.
JR: Congressman, three quick questions. Why did you leave the Gang of Eight, the group of four Democrats and four Republicans from the House of Representatives? What did you not like?
RL: What I liked the least is that every time that—there were many agreements that they had. If you remember, Jorge, I wasn’t—I wasn’t part of that group from the beginning.
RL: There were people who’d been working since before I was—before I was in Congress. They had agreements between Republicans and Democrats, and those agreements that they had were one of the reasons I decided to become a member of that group. When I became a member of that group, many of the Democrats started to say that they were not going to comply with the agreements they had before regarding insurance, medication coverage, for example, and many other things about which they had agreements, and I wasn’t willing to be in a group in which they were not going to do the things that they had already agreed to.
JR: Congressman, two more questions. The presidents of Mexico and Brazil are complaining about reports stating that the government of the United States spied on them. Do you believe that we, the United States, should be spying on our friends and allies?
RL: I don’t have all the details and really, it would be irresponsible for me to say anything about that at this time. So I want to see more information regarding these accusations, and perhaps at that time I will have better informa—a better opinion.
JR: And I’ll end with this: Are you interested in being governor of Idaho, Congressman?
RL: No. I decided a few months ago that I was not going to do it. I did not… In fact, I announced two or three weeks ago that I wasn’t going to run for governor of Idaho. I’m very interested in continuing to take part in these debates that we have in Congress. And one of the most important ones is the debate about immigration, and I really want to solve this problem that we have in the United States.
JR: Congressman Raúl Labrador, thank you very much for coming back to the program.
RL: Thank you very much.
JR: Thank you.