Feb 21, 2017
This week, Speaker Paul Ryan and key Republican House leaders will visit McAllen, Texas for a tour of the southern border. As a region that spans roughly 2,000 miles and is home to millions of Americans, the United States’ southern border continues to be a center point of the immigration debate. Identifying which legislators represent border communities and how they’re responding to the immigration debate are valuable insights to understanding the politics of the southern border region.
2% of Congress and .5% of state legislators represent the southern border
There are 9 Members of Congress and 44 state legislators who represent the southern border of the United States -- accounting for only 2% representation in Congress and .5% in state legislatures. The southern border is represented by 6 Democrats and 3 Republicans in Congress, and 34 Democrats and 10 Republicans in state legislatures.
90% of congressional districts on the southern border are majority Hispanic or Latino
Eight of the 9 congressional districts on the southern border are majority Hispanic or Latino. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ-2) represents the only minority Hispanic or Latino district with 27% of the population. All 6 Democrats hold office in districts with a Cook PVI of D+5 of greater.
Border Republicans in Congress are divided on “the wall” but agree on security
Rep. Hurd (R-TX-23), who represents the largest stretch of the southern border, has been a vocal opponent to President Trump’s wall. In a press release last month, Rep. Hurd explained, “Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border … we need an intelligence-led approach to [border security].”
Rep. McSally (R-AZ-2) has openly embraced President Trump’s executive actions on immigration. However, she has also rallied the support of Rep. Hurd as a cosponsor for her “Border Security Technology Accountability Act” which passed the House last month. Together, Rep. McSally and Rep. Hurd built a strong legislative record as freshman in the 114th Congress.
Rep. Pearce (R-NM-2) has not made an official statement through a press release, floor statement or on social media regarding “the wall” or “immigration" since October 2016.
State legislators from the southern border are vocal on immigration issues
Dialogue from state legislators on “immigration” and “the border” has spiked dramatically since President Trump’s inauguration. With over 200 mentions so far in 2017, legislators from the border commonly use words like “community” or “security” when discussing immigration issues. Eight of the top ten most vocal legislators on immigration and the border are from Texas.
The politics of the border
Speaker Ryan’s visit times well with the GOP’s recent push for a border adjustment tax and President Trump’s persistent call to begin construction of a wall. In their joint press conference last month, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell outlined an estimated cost of 12 to 15 billion for the construction of a wall on the southern border. What remains, of course, is the question of how to pay for such a wall.