Activists from Baylor University and the Waco area gathered outside of Rep. Bill Flores' office in Waco on Friday to protest his stances on an underground oil pipeline, immigration, border security, and sanctuary cities.
News Channel 25's Pattrik Simmons requested a response from Rep. Flores about the protesters' concerns. Below are his thoughts.
The protesters said you support the Dakota Access Pipeline because they claim the CEO behind the pipeline contributed funds to your campaign. What's your response?
"The allegation goes beyond the pale. My job is to represent the 700,000 constituents in Texas District 17. Whether or not any of them contributed to me, or any outside group contributes to me, does not change my baring on how I represent those 700,000 constituents. That's absolutely false. The reason for supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline is because the allegations that have been made against it to stop it are totally false. The allegations include that it crosses reservation land. It does not. There are allegations that it's more prone to have accidents. It does not. It would be one of eight pipelines that go under the lake. It's all on private land or federal land. It will replace 250+ trucks that run across the reservation every day and or 800 railroad tank cars. Both trucks and railroad tank cars are many times more dangerous than pipelines. I will continue to support the Dakota Access Pipeline because it is the safest and most environmentally-friendly way to transport these types of goods."
What are your thoughts on border security and President Donald Trump's efforts to build a wall?
"Border security is an inherent function of the federal government. I believe we need to have strong border security. That is one of the reasons that the outcome of the election was the way it turned out in November. People feel like the borders are lax, and they are. They feel like national security is weak, and it is. And they’re fed up with it. Do I believe we should have a wall the entire length of the border? Absolutely not. Particularly in Texas, a wall is not an efficient or effective way to provide for border security. In those situations, we need to have more of an integrated system that includes more security personnel, airborne assets, sensors, technology, fences or walls in some areas. In most parts of Texas, it would go across private land, and that means that you’d have eminent domain issues, where the federal government is taking families’ farm land or ranch land and cutting it apart. That’s just not a good solution."
One of the protesters said you don't see people living in the country illegally as real people.
"That comment also goes beyond the pale. If these folks had come to our prior town hall meetings, [they'd] see that I support DACA through a legislative solution, not through the solution that President Obama tried. I support a path to legal status for people that are here illegally, provided that they haven’t committed criminal acts. With respect to DREAMers, I support a path to citizenship for DREAMers."
A protester said cities should have the right to be so-called "sanctuary cities" without penalty. What are your thoughts?
"We are a nation of laws. If a city or a state or any other type of governmental unit elects to violate the law, in my opinion and in the opinion of most Americans, there is no reason for the money from hard-working taxpayers to go to provide the funds to those communities or to those governmental units that violate the law. If a city decides it wants to be a sanctuary city, which means violating federal law with respect to immigration, then that’s fine. They just have to realize that they’ll have to pay a cost for violating the law, and that is that they will receive no federal funding."
The activists hope to hold more protests in the future and want to make sure they're being heard. What would you say to them?
"I want to let them know that what they did today is the way a represented government works. They came to my office, to me, to petition to have their voices heard. We heard their voices loudly and clearly. I especially appreciate them being respectful."
Rep. Flores said he plans to have town hall meetings in mid-April, where he hopes to discuss these issues in more detail.
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