EXCLUSIVE: Republican candidates running in border states are warning congressional GOP members negotiating a funding deal not to cede ground to Democrat demands for more Ukraine support so long as the migrant crisis continues.
Fox News Digital spoke with multiple Republican candidates, as well as one Democrat, about the ongoing negotiations and whether concern for Ukraine amid its war with Russia might trump the worsening border crisis that they say is a threat to America’s national security.
“If our elected officials can’t focus solely on securing our border and stopping people from invading our country, then they should be voted out of office,” Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake told Fox.
“Any member of Congress who is trying to wrap Ukraine funding into securing our own border is betraying the trust of the American people. The money I would vote to approve will be used to secure our border and stop the invasion, not to process more people coming in,” she added.
Former Republican Texas Congresswoman Mayra Flores, the first Mexican-born woman elected to Congress who is now running to retake her border district seat she lost in the 2022 midterms, echoed Lake. Money should not continue to be sent to Ukraine as long as America continues to battle the crisis at the border, Flores said.
“As the wife of a border patrol agent living in the Rio Grande Valley, I can tell you unequivocally there is no more serious threat to our country’s security than the thousands of unknown, illegal immigrants coming into our country every single day,” she said.
New Mexico Senate candidate Ben Luna also took a tough approach, arguing congressional Republicans needed to step up and stop the decline he said America has been facing because of issues at the border.
“We really need to fix America before we even try to help others. It’s almost like an injured person trying to go do surgery on somebody else. It doesn’t make any sense,” he told Fox.
“[Republicans] need to buckle up and play hardball… We haven’t really had a lot of leadership and a lot of people know that hard times create strong men while weak men create hard times. And we’re kind of going through that right now,” he said.
Luna added that Americans were now dealing with the consequences of 70 to 100 years of bad policy decisions, and that even Democrats in his home state were waking up to the realities of politicians sending money elsewhere when it was desperately needed to help those here.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is up for re-election this year, has been one of the biggest proponents in the Senate for achieving Republicans’ objectives in handling the border crisis. He introduced the Senate version of H.R. 2, officially known as the Secure the Border Act, which has served as the baseline for the GOP’s border position in the funding negotiations.
“I think it’s the best and most comprehensive approach to actually securing the border. And the White House’s objection comes down to the sad fact they don’t want it secure for anybody else,” he said in a recent interview.
One of Cruz’s Democrat challengers, Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, offered an alternative view on the funding fight, arguing the war in Ukraine affected everyone across the globe, and that solutions to the border crisis involved reforming gun laws to combat cartel violence.
“The war in Ukraine is about protecting democracy, and when democracy is challenged anywhere in the world, that affects us all,” he told Fox. “Real border security solutions involve stopping the gun industry from arming cartels. Only comprehensive gun safety reform is going to fix that.”
Gutierrez said that policies like red flag laws, purchasing age limits and “assault” weapons bans would accomplish that.
“Fixing the chaos caused by Republican extremists at the southern border must be solved, but make no mistake, it should not come at the cost of protecting democracy. It’s time to put an end to the made-for-TV stunts and finally focus on the voices of the leaders from our border communities,” he added.
Fox reached out to a number of other Democrat candidates running in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and asked what they wanted to see as part of the funding deal, but none offered any response.
Key Senate lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill early this week from the Christmas recess to try and strike a deal on a border security bill after they were unable to reach an agreement last month.
Lead Senate negotiators James Lankford, R-Okla., Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., began negotiations with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other Biden administration officials a week before the upper chamber was scheduled to go on its holiday recess.
Meanwhile, 60 House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., ended their holiday break early to visit Eagle Pass, Texas, on the southern border Wednesday. They have vowed that even if a deal is struck in the Senate, it won’t receive support from the GOP-controlled House unless it includes elements of H.R. 2.
Republicans tied the condition of increased aid to Ukraine to the implementation of stricter border security measures prior to the recess. However, the demand for this linkage, which encompasses aid to Israel and Taiwan alongside Ukraine, arose soon after President Biden urged its passage in October.
Fox News’ Jamie Joseph contributed to this report.