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What Kari Lake doesn't like about the Senate's bipartisan border deal

Republican Kari Lake is running against Rep. Ruben Gallego for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s seat.

If Lake was in the Senate right now, she’d be among the senators opposed to this bipartisan border deal.

On Wednesday, Lake talked with KJZZ News about what she doesn’t like about it and how the debate over immigration and the border will shape the campaign trail.

Bipartisan immigration deal likely to fail in Congress. Rep. Ruben Gallego is a yes — but wants more

Woman in red top speaks into microphone
Kari Lake speaking with attendees at a meeting of the Arizona Legislative District 28 Republican Party at Westbrook Village in Peoria on Nov. 20, 2023.

BEN GILES: Why do you oppose this bipartisan deal that was crafted in the Senate?

KARI LAKE: Well, I thought they were putting together a border plan that would secure the border, and this plan doesn’t do that. And this plan is needed to secure the border. It’s a bloated plan full of money that is meant to aid in foreign wars. And I think the American people are tired of that type of policy; $74 billion going to foreign countries to fund wars is not securing our border. And we could do a border security plan for a lot less than that.

And frankly, we had a secure border under President Trump. And unfortunately, on day one, upon entering office, Joe Biden immediately ended the national emergency declaration at the border and blocked the border wall construction, which we do know works. The border wall does work. And (Biden stopped) the Remain in Mexico policy, which was helping to keep all these people pouring across and now seeking asylum in Mexico. And it was actually a process that we had under President Trump that worked better and kept this invasion from happening here in America.

So I don’t think it’s necessary. I think it’s a bill that’s really designed to pour a bunch of money into Ukraine and other conflicts. And it is not designed to end the problem at our southern border, but just to pour more money into the symptoms.

GILES: But this was a compromise. That was the point of tying border funding to funding for Ukraine and Israel. That was something that congressional Republican leadership had suggested. And this bill did include things like measures to automatically close the border if crossings hit 5,000 crossings a day. The deal also included tougher standards on asylum and expansions of detention capacity. Aren’t those helpful things for our border communities?

LAKE: Well, I would ask you this: Do you really think it’s a compromise that $74 billion is going to fund foreign war? Do we have to compromise with elected officials in order to get a secure border by doling out billions of dollars to foreign wars?

I think we need to name names on who is demanding that we pour billions into foreign wars in order to secure our border here at home. I want to know who’s demanding that as part of the compromise.

I really think the American people deserve the names of these elected officials who are saying, “We will not secure the border unless you agree to pour billions into Ukraine and other foreign wars.” That’s what I want to know.

GILES: There is this political sense now, though, that something has to be done about immigration. What do you say to people like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was urging Republicans in Congress to support this as recently as Monday? Even the Border Patrol union, which came out in support of this bipartisan deal?

LAKE: Well, I think Mitch McConnell has backed away from his support. It sounds like he's less supportive of it today than he was when it first came out. And I even think the Border Patrol union head, Brandon Judd, I’m sensing he’s backing away a little bit from it as well now that they’re realizing what a mess this legislation is.

I have not spoken with Brandon Judd that I have talked to many members who are in the Border Patrol or spouses of Border Patrol agents, and they are appalled by this. You talked about immigration. We do have issues with our immigration system, but we cannot solve that until we secure the border.

We must secure the border first. It’s very easy to do. Joe Biden could do it right now, and it could be secured within a week. But he’s got to go back to some of those policies that President Trump had implemented.

And listen, I get it. I know not everybody loves President Trump. I think he was an incredible president. I think his policies made all of our lives better whether you like him or you don’t. But the policy he had enacted on the border — and I was a broadcast journalist for 27 years, I covered Arizona, I covered the border — it had never been more secure than under President Trump. We need to go back to those policies for the sake of our country, for the sake of our national security and for the sake of American citizens.

And I think Joe Biden can do that. If he doesn’t want to give the credit to President Trump, that’s fine with me. He can retitle it “the Biden border security policy,” whatever he wants to retitle it. And we’ll be happy to give Joe Biden the credit for it.

But something’s got to give, and we have to stop this invasion at the border. And this piece of legislation does not do that.

GILES: Immigration is certainly going to be a central issue on the upcoming campaign trail. Does the upcoming election play into your opposition to this? Do you think maybe this would be too much of a political win for Democrats heading into this presidential election season?

LAKE: Well, if you followed my campaign for governor, you know that I have been not only talking about the border, but I came up with the first, most aggressive and bold plan to secure the border from the state level, not relying on the federal government because of what Joe Biden did on day one, hour one of his administration, where he pulled back that successful border plan that was in place.

I worked really hard to come up with a plan that would allow us — that was constitutional, by the way — that would allow us as a state to secure our border. And we’re seeing parts of my plan that Gov. (Greg) Abbott is now employing in Texas. And it’s working. It’s working. We don’t need the federal government to protect our citizens from an invasion. We have the right as a state to do that.

GILES: All right. We’ll leave it there. U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake, thank you for joining us.

LAKE: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much.

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Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.