Which Republicans have you reached out to beyond the courtesies?
Roy Blunt [of Missouri, the No. 4 Republican] was one of the first. Part of what we have in common is that he is also a former State Secretary. There are actually three of us: Blunt, Sherrod Brown [Democrat of Ohio] and myself.
I had a pleasant conversation with Senator [Shelley Moore] Capito [of West Virginia] and [John] Cornyn from Texas. We may not agree, but he is also from a border state.
You have been appointed to a number of important committees: Budget, Rules and Administration, Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Justice. You were also appointed chairman of the Judiciary’s Immigration Subcommittee. What do you hope to achieve in this role?
The stars are aligned for immigration advances. If it were up to me I would take the Biden package and say, “Let’s go.” But the reality is, what can be done to get 60 votes? What Can Reconciliation Do? After the Covid bill is ready, let’s turn to that.
Do you think immigration reform can be done? reconciliation, a budgetary procedure that only requires 51 votes to be adopted?
I think there are elements that can absolutely be done. But there are other parts that cannot do this. What is the strategy for getting as much done as possible ASAP? Having studied for the past few years, I would be careful not to take too long because the closer we get to the next election, the more this becomes an excuse.
So my journey now affects my work. The reason I gave up engineering and joined the government was Proposition 187 in 1994. I had come home relatively fresh from college. I came back to a political environment where there was an advertisement on television saying that immigrants and immigrant children should no longer be entitled to public services, that the economy is fueling and that it is the fault of people like my parents and families like mine. It was more than offensive. It was angry. I had no choice but to get involved.
I spoke to the New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the other day and she said she wanted the Democrats to be bold about immigration reform. She does not see some of the proposals as “cutting edge” and is concerned that the Democrats are allowing the Conservatives to weaken the agenda. How brave must immigration reform be?