California Democrat Scott Peters, a former environmental lawyer, represents a majority Anglo district near the Mexican border town of Tijuana.
Texas Republican Will Hurd, a 39-year-old former CIA officer who’s nearly two decades younger that Peters, represents a majority Latino district a thousand miles to the east that spans 40 percent of America’s border with Mexico.
Hurd has voted reliably with his party during his two terms in Congress, as has Peters with his party, although slightly less so, during his three terms. Both are targets of the opposite party’s campaign committee in 2018.
But when it comes to protecting the economic interests of the border region — and these members argue, the nation — they’ve often been “border members” first, and Republicans and Democrats second.
“People on the border get it,” Peters said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office last week.
Peters and his Democratic colleagues in the Congressional Border Caucus, along with Hurd, convened a late January hearing in Washington in which regional business leaders spoke about the importance of a strong economic relationship with Mexico.
“I don’t think most of them were Democrats,” Peters chuckled.
His guest wasn’t: Jerry Sanders, the president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, is also a former Republican mayor and police chief of the city.
Sanders has seen up-close the kind of bipartisan collaboration that border issues have inspired. Back in 2013, five members of California’s congressional delegation from the San Diego area — Democrats Juan Vargas, Susan Davis and Peters and Republicans Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter — teamed up to secure federal funding for an expansion of the San Ysidro port of entry, one of the world’s busiest border crossings.
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The spotlight President Donald Trump has shone on the southern border with his proposed wall has reinforced the regional allegiance that Republican and Democratic members along the border share, particularly when it comes to economic issues.
“They may say it in slightly different ways, but they have similar concerns,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former director of border policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, Hurd, a member of Trump’s own party, is one of the wall’s strongest opponents. His district could be most affected by its construction. He’s called the president’s proposal “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”
Hurd faced one of the most competitive re-elections in the nation last fall, winning by 1 point in a district Hillary Clinton carried by 3. And he will likely face another close race next year.
Arizona Republican Martha E. McSally, who chairs a congressional subcommittee that oversees border security, also sits in a district won by Clinton.
“Not a continuous, 2,000-mile border wall, no,”