Rep. Kinzinger on His Deployment to SW Border: ' What I Saw Was Really Disturbing'

Susan Jones | February 25, 2019 | 5:30am EST
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Rep. Adam Kinzinger is a Lt.-Col. in the Air National Guard and is just back from a deployment to the Southwest border in Arizona. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - "Yes," there is a real emergency at the Southwest border says Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who is just back from a deployment with the Air National Guard, flying surveillance missions out of Tucson.

The congressman said when he deployed to Arizona, he was "kind of undecided" about whether the situation is a national emergency, as President Trump has declared:

"And I think if this was just an issue of immigration, it wouldn't constitute a national emergency. But what I saw was really disturbing," Kinzinger said.

What I saw was a lot of people coming over the border, a lot of drugs on the border, and a lot of human trafficking. I mean these coyotes that would get paid a lot of money to bring groups over and then desert them to save their own backside is extremely disturbing," Kinzinger told CBS's "Face the Nation.

Let me give you just a couple of quick examples. And I was just a small part of all the operations that were being done. We found at one point a woman hunkered down in the desert because her coyotes who brought her over deserted her because they wanted to get away. Had she actually not been found but us, I don't know if she'd have been able to find her way home.

So, yes, she got picked up by Border Patrol. She's going to be deported. But that was a way better option than being one of the 200 at least bodies that end up finding in the desert every year.

And keep in mind, I've done this -- you know, we had a mission where we found 70 pounds of methamphetamines on somebody that was coming over, and I'm just a very small part of that.

This is the fourth time I've been to the border, my first time in Arizona, completely different terrain than my prior in Texas. Texas, by the way, I was there under President Obama. So the Guard's mission on the border is nothing new.

Kinzinger said cameras and radar picked up "many, many groups" heading to the United States, but there weren't enough Border Patrol agents to intercept all of them.


"These agents sometimes will have to take a truck and then walk two miles through terrible terrain to get to these groups, only the have them run while they're already exhausted and they get lost in that chaos."

Kinzinger said he will not vote to block President Trump's national emergency declaration:

"Look, I wish this would have happened a different way. I voted for comprehensive immigration reform. I think Republicans and Democrats both have good ideas on immigration that we ought to all adopt."

Host Margaret Brennan asked Kinzinger if he thinks it is constitutional for President Trump to "bypass" Congress's "power of the purse strings."

"I do, yes," he said. "Because, in this case, like I said at the beginning, if this was just about immigration, I would disagree. I do think this is a security threat. It's a security threat with the amount of drugs coming over the border and the human trafficking that I've seen. And again, in Arizona, I think they said last year there were 200 bodies at least that they found in the desert.”

Kinzinger said it is “not compassionate” to weaken border security, which would encourage even more people to make the dangerous journey.

“It's compassionate to say, do it the right way,” he added, meaning the legal way.

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