Steve Negron, the Republican nominee for New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District, says although he's open to increasing visas for foreign workers, he supports stricter immigration reform.
Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Negron on foreign relations and trade. Morning Edition is speaking will all congressional candidates in the Granite State this week.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
What kind of immigration reform would you intend to support as a member of Congress?
Well, certainly we now know we've seen over the last so many years that the immigration policies that we have right now are failing us. So I believe that an overarching immigration reform is necessary. For those who have seen or heard me on the campaign, I am the grandson of a Mexican immigrant. My grandfather came here in 1921 from Michoacán, Mexico. But you know, he came over here according to what the law was. So he knew what he had to do. He followed the rule of law and became a citizen. Not everybody wants to become a citizen, Rick. You know I think a lot of people want to think that's exactly what it is.
But you know we have 185 ways through the visa programs that come into this country. And for me it's a national security issue. We want to make sure that we are welcoming for immigrants to come into this country. That's who we are. That's how we were born as a nation. But we need to fundamentally know who's in our country, what's your purpose, where are you at. And I think when you don't do that and you have almost like a free for all, it becomes a little uneasy. I think we've seen a lot of those things in the past. So I believe right now we need to look at how do we make sure that the people coming into the border, in our country, whether it's through the southern border, even the northern border, seaports, airports you know that we're a land of laws. There's a right way to do it. We're not doing it right now. We need to get back to it.
During a recent forum here on NHPR, you said that you would support an increase in H-2B visas issued for workers. How would you work within your own party to make that happen?
If you've been granted an H-2B visa once, I already have that information that I alluded to earlier. I know who you are. And it really came to light to me with one of the young men who actually does some work for me. You know, those people that he could count on year after year because they were known entities. They were repeat people that wanted to come back with the visas. But this year, they actually limited the amount of those visas, and it hurt our industry. It hurt our retail industry. It hurt the hotel industry and seasonal workers.
So you'd be willing to buck your own party on this?
Absolutely, you bet. You know, it isn't this one size fits all. So I'd absolutely have that discussion with my own party.
The Trump administration worked with Canada and Mexico to revise NAFTA, which has been renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But there's not actually all that much has changed in it. I'm wondering if you see it as more than just rebranding.
I think it was a situation where there were some things that were an imbalance. And I think the president was just trying to level the playing field. And you know there was a little bit of pushback clearly from both. But I think both Canada and Mexico are now on board to try and have fair trade across the three. And I think that's really the intent. I'm not so sure it's a rebranding. I think it's some things we've talked about. You can hear about the dairy tariffs from us going into Canada, and maybe some of the Mexico trade tariffs that were out there. But I think it's now more an equilibrium that's there, and I think that was beneficial to both Canada and Mexico as well.
There's been concern from voters in New Hampshire about cybersecurity, and of course nationwide attempts from countries like Russia and China to hack U.S. elections. Would you support securing federal funding for investing in improving cybersecurity on the local state level?
I mean it's a global issue so anything that we can do to protect that. I mean there's everything that's on the table, Rick. Infrastructure Is at risk. You know, banking is at risk. The grid is at risk. So absolutely, you know anything that we can do to try to prevent that and protect that I think is a situation where I think that the government has a role to play.
The president of course has been skeptical of these issues. What's your feeling on that?
Well, if the issue is about the voting issue, I would tell you that the safest state is one like New Hampshire where we have a paper ballot. And I think it's very hard to spoof a paper ballot. I do know in talking to some people in the intel world there wasn't a single vote changed through that alleged Russian hacking. I think what we saw was on a social media aspect that they try to influence it that way. But I think at the end of the day, Rick, really the responsibility of who they vote for rests with me as an individual based on the information I need to go out and seek. But we certainly saw that there were other foreign countries that were doing some things to try to sway our mind as to who and how we would vote. And if we were able to find those people, I think they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
What about a response to reports that the Saudi Arabian government has murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi? What is your opinion and what should the U.S. response be?
These other countries that don't see life and human rights the way we do, it's very hard for us to go over there and dictate to them. But I would tell you we should make a stand, and I think that we need to have hard talks with them. You know there are some things that are out there that we see that maybe we should look at some sanctions that should be imposed on the Saudis, and let them know that if we're going to be a world partner, that's something that we cannot tolerate. And we need to talk about that.