Texas Border Democrat Calls Donald Trump's Wall '14th Century Solution' To '21st Century Issues'

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents the border city of Laredo, said President Donald Trump's proposed wall between the United States and Mexico is a medieval solution to a modern-day problem.

A 17-member bipartisan, bicameral committee, whose job is to reach a deal on Homeland Security funding by Feb. 15 or perhaps face another partial government shutdown, met for the first time Wednesday.

Cuellar, who is one of only two Texans on the committee, said he will have an open mind during negotiations, except for giving the president any money for his border wall, or any type of barrier to separate the countries.

"A wall is the 14th century solution to the 21st century issues that we have on the border," Cuellar said Wednesday.

After the longest shutdown in American history ended last Friday, a committee was tasked with finding a solution to the cause of the shutdown—border wall funding. If the committee doesn't hammer out a deal, another shutdown could happen.

The president is requesting approximately $5.7 billion for a barrier along parts of the southern border that don't have natural barriers like mountains and waterway.

Republican Rep. Kay Granger from Fort Worth, the other Texan on the committee, had a positive outlook as the committee began its negotiations. She's hopeful the Democrats will make good on their promise of working on a deal.

"Democrats said they would not negotiate on border security until the government was reopened," she said during opening remarks. "The government is now open, and the negotiations start now."

The Dallas Morning News said the committee initially met in public Wednesday, but then conducted a large portion of its talks behind closed doors.

Cuellar said Democrats will negotiate, but the terms each side brings to the table could be polar opposites.

"We all have different positions on how we settle this," Cuellar said. "But then again, we're negotiators. If we don't have an outside influence, let's say President Trump, we can sit down and work out a compromise."

The shutdown resulted in about 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or working without pay. Some national parks closed, members of the U.S. Coast Guard missed a paycheck, national museums and libraries shut down temporarily, security workers at major U.S. airports began calling in sick, creating logjams at some checkpoints and even closing some entry points. Most workers will receive back pay, the president said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week the shutdown led to $11 billion in lost revenue, and an extra $3 billion that affected local economies.

Whereas Republicans say physical barriers like walls and fences are imperative to developing an overall border security package, Democrats haven't shown any signs of border wall funding in their preliminary offer.

Cuellar said his experience on the border leads him to believe money could be spent better elsewhere, such heading off the flow of illegal drugs moving through ports of entry.

However, the president has said numerous times that illegal drugs and human trafficking aren't going through ports of entry, but rather across unsecured points along the border.

Democrats and Republicans have agreed on things like providing funds for hundreds of more Customs and Border Enforcement agents, using new and improved technology, providing more canine units and increasing funding for the immigration court system.

The president said he doesn't buy any negotiations that don't include a wall. He tweeted Wednesday that if the committee doesn't discuss a wall in their deal, then they are kicking the can down the road and "wasting their time."

If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019

Trump has said that if a deal for a border wall isn't done, then he could declare a national emergency to build it.

The wall was a major part of the president's 2016 campaign, when he said the U.S. would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it.