Congress

Rep. Adam Kinzinger says border deployment made up his mind on national emergency

Illinois Republican flew aerial surveillance missions with his Air National Guard unit

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, flew aerial surveillance missions over the Arizona border with the National Guard for two weeks. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, returned from a two-week Air National Guard deployment conducting aerial surveillance over the Arizona border and said the experience solidified his support for the president’s national emergency declaration.

Kinzinger supports President Donald Trump’s push for a wall at the southern border, and was deployed there two weeks ago with his Guard unit, his office reported.

Kinzinger voiced support for the president’s radical maneuver to circumvent Article I of the Constitution and devote federal funds to a border wall without Congressional approval.

“Do you think it's constitutional?” asked host Margaret Brennan on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. 

“I do,” Kinzinger replied. “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.”

The 16th District Republican added, “I wish this would have happened a different way.”

The National Guard deployed to the border are not armed and cannot directly participate in the law enforcement duties of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

They are excluded from patrols and detentions conducted by CBP, but instead have played a supporting role at a distance from the border. That has included monitoring surveillance as well as more rudimentary tasks like cleaning stables.

Some Democratic governors refused to deploy guardsman, citing opposition to the Trump administration’s child separation policy.

Kinzinger criticized Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers for recalling the state's guardsman on Twitter Monday.

"I’m grateful to my fellow Wisconsin Guard members, and I’m deeply disappointed you won’t let them do what they are trained to do for the good of the country," Kinzinger tweeted.

Watch: Preview: A behind-the-scenes look at CQ’s 2018 Vote Studies

Kinzinger is a lieutenant colonel in the Guard who flies reconnaissance aircraft, conducting aerial surveillance.

“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 by us I don’t know if she’d have been able to find her way home.”

“So, yeah, 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 they end up finding in the desert every year,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger disputes Border Patrol statistics showing that border apprehensions have trended downward, but acknowledged that resources have been strained by a surge in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“Well, what I didn’t see is a low in apprehension,” Kinzinger said.

“From my experience there were many, many groups that we would see on technology with camera radar or something like that that we could not go address because there were not enough Border Patrol agents ... Part of that’s because now they’ve understood how to abuse the asylum laws in this country.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.