Eddie Edwards, the Republican nominee in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, says he supports enforcement of stricter borders, including building a wall along the border with Mexico. But the former law enforcement officer says he's concerned with the lack of oversight for federal agencies like ICE, the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Edwards about foreign relations and trade. Morning Edition is speaking with all congressional candidates this week.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
Now you have said in the past that you are supportive of President Trump's effort to build a wall on the southern border. You are in favor of stricter immigration standards in general. What specifically would you like to see?
Well, what I've said in terms of immigration standards -- first of all, we have a right to secure the border. I mean, that's something that every nation does, and I think here in America we use this as a wedge issue to drive us apart. And this is something that the entire country should be unified on. So I think when it comes to our immigration system to suggest that somehow the country is not welcoming, I think is disingenuous. We're a very welcoming nation but you can't come here illegally. So we have to make sure we secure the border. I think that's fair to those who are seeking to come here. And it's also fair to the American worker.
New Hampshire has seen an increase in the presence of federal and ICE officials with regular check points along I-93 and some popular tourist areas, I'm thinking especially in Lincoln, over the summer and holiday weekends. Do you believe those checkpoints are effective? Are they a good use of resources?
Well, I think if we're securing our border right, that's what ICE is there for to secure our border. So they're doing border enforcement [and] border security. It makes good sense to me. What doesn't make good sense to me is the amount of authority they have to write their own rules and determine how that enforcement should be done and carried out. That's more of a challenge. That's more of a problem for me.
Because they're independent of state rule?
Not just that. I'm troubled by any authority given to administrative agencies to write their own rules, and enforce those rules and judge those rules. That's what's more troubling to me, because as you know in 1946 I believe, Congress transferred a lot of its rule making authority to administrative agencies and that's what you see here. A more challenging a standpoint is that I think they made the self determination that the border stands 100 miles away from the border. That's more concerning. That's something that elected officials should be engaged in on behalf of their citizens, their constituents. So the notion that a federal agency, and I'm very supportive of our law enforcement and I'm very supportive of securing on border. I'm very supportive ice, but also I'm supportive of the structure of government. And when it comes to rulemaking and laws being crafted, that should be done by the legislature, not by administrative agency.
Let's turn our attention if we could to trade for a minute. The Trump administration worked with Canada and Mexico to revise NAFTA. It's been renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Some are arguing it doesn't really change all that much. There has been some movement with the dairy industry here in America being able to sell into Canada now. What's your take on that?
Well, I think when we see the full details of this agreement, then I'll be in a better position to make that assessment. But the fact that this deal was renegotiated and Canada resisted it, tells me a great deal of changes occurred. I know that's how people are categorizing it and now that not a lot has changed. But I think the fact that we got a deal on the table and people thought we wouldn't be able to renegotiate NAFTA. We wouldn't be able to do this. But that's more of the partisan bickering that goes on in D.C., as opposed to the overall approach here. The overall approach is to make sure that America's being treated fairly in our trade deals, and I think you saw that with the EU. I think you saw that with NAFTA, and I think ultimately we'll see that with China.
Well, you've brought up China. That's interesting because some businesses here in the Granite State say, look you know this is costing us money. The president's position has been, look there might be some short term pain here, but this is for fairness in the long term. What's your feeling on it?
Sure, you know one of the pleasures I've had campaigning since April 2017 is the ability to meet so many different wonderful people. And I met a number of manufacturers in our state, business folks in our state who are concerned about this. And many of them have also said, to me though, at least in conversations I've had, that they're willing to give the president some level of forbearance here because they understand the ultimate goal here is to make sure that we have balance and we're been treated fairly in some of these trade deals.
How much leeway do you think they're willing to give?
Well I think according to some of these folks, they understand the long term ramifications rather in the short term outcomes. They're looking at this down the road because some of these businesses are fourth, third generation businesses. So they understand the dynamics that are taking place, because they understand in business you're looking at the long term viability of your industry.
I want to talk to you about possible sanctions with Saudi Arabia since the alleged murder of Jamal Khoshoggi by the Saudi government. There have been talks from Congress, and others of course, about U.S. sanctions against Saudi Arabia. Would you support sanctions?
Well, I think one of the first things you learn as a law enforcement officer. You've got to gather all the facts before you make a decision. You have to. It's critical. And so I think right now we should let the fact gathers gather the facts. What we do know is that it was a very heinous murder committed, and we should be addressing that and investigating it to determine who actually carried out this murder, making sure they're held accountable, making sure they're brought forward. And if Saudi Arabia was directly involved, they had knowledge of it, they coordinated in this and this stuff, then we should be holding them accountable.