That’s what U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told a Saturday Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast as the clock ticks down toward a Friday deadline for a conference committee to get a border security deal done or face another partial federal government shutdown.
Customs and Border Protection, according to Roe, has apprehended 140,000 people trying to enter the U.S. illegally in the last two months.
“That’s the population of Sullivan County,” Roe, who visited the southern border last August, said at the breakfast held at the Charles Fuller Board and Training Center.
Where fencing is in place, Roe insisted, illegal crossings drop by 90-95 percent.
“This country has the most generous immigration in the world. We legally immigrated in 2017 almost 1.2 million people,” Roe, R-Tenn., stressed. “ … Not protecting our border is costing us. We’re paying for it. … We should do our job and pass the appropriation bill and move on.”
On veterans’ issues, Roe pointed out that while he served on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Congress passed a Veterans Administration (VA) accountability bill, a VA Mission Act to improve veterans’ health care and a Forever G.I. bill to give veterans universal access to higher education.
Roe noted the U.S. workforce is more productive than China despite that country having four times more people.
“We had thought that manufacturing was over in this country,” Roe said. “ … In 2016, we lost 20,000 manufacturing jobs. In the last two years, we’ve added almost 600,000 manufacturing jobs, and those are great jobs to re-create our middle class. … Wages are now beginning to go up, and our unemployment rate, we’re almost at full employment, and many people are coming off the sidelines to get back in the workforce.”
Near the end of his remarks, Roe said he got “physically nauseated” when he heard of New York state lawmakers cheering after they passed a bill with unprecedented abortion protections.
“We need to pray for this country because if we think that’s OK, God will not continue to bless us,” Roe declared.
Tennessee state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, in addition to state Rep. Gary Hicks, Jr., R-Rogersville, also spoke at the breakfast.
What did Niceley say?
Niceley said he has introduced a resolution working toward allowing a 2020 vote on removing the state’s zero property tax from state code.
“Over half the people who vote for governor would have to vote yes,” Niceley said of the ballot measure. “It amends the (state) Constitution.”
He also disclosed he has proposed a constitutional amendment to allow bingo games to benefit public and private schools.
“Somehow when we passed the (Tennessee) lottery … we outlawed bingo,” Niceley told the breakfast.
What did Hicks say?
Hicks expressed frustration with the lack of progress on the Armstrong Road bridge project.
“The good thing is it’s paid for,” Hicks said. “We’re in the engineering phase right now. … We are pushing that. (The Tennessee Department of Transportation) has assured me they are doing everything they can to get that bridge up and running. … I get asked about that more than anything else.”
The breakfast was sponsored by Holston Electric Cooperative.