McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Five candidates for the Republican presidential nomination engaged in a spicy two-hour debate Wednesday night during which all said the Southwest border needs to be closed to drugs and illegal crossings from Mexico.
In the last half-hour of the third GOP debate, which was held in Miami, the candidates were asked how they would stop fentanyl from crossing from Mexico.
Most said they would send some kind of U.S. forces to the border, block border access, and stop precursor chemicals that are used to make fentanyl from entering the United States from Mexico.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis drew cheers from the Miami audience for his answer:
“We’re declaring it a national emergency on Day 1. I’m sending U.S. military to the border. And I’m going to stop the invasion cold. I am going to deport people who came illegally. I’m even going to build the border wall and have Mexico pay for it like Donald Trump promised,” DeSantis said. “We are going to designate the cartels to be foreign terrorist organizations, or something similar to that. And we’re going to authorize the use of deadly force. We’re going to have maritime operations to interdict precursor chemicals going into Mexico. But I tell you this: If someone in the drug cartels is sneaking the fentanyl across the border when I’m president, then that’s going to be the last thing they will do. We’re going to shoot ‘em stone-cold dead.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie flubbed his answer saying he would “send the National Guard to partner with Customs and Border patrol both at ports of entry and at the open ports of our border.”
The agency, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, is called U.S. Customs and Border Protection. CBP officers patrol at ports; U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol the rest of the border.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said he would “close our southern border” by investing $10 billion to finish building a border wall. He said for $5 billion more military technology can be used to surveil the border better. He also said he would sanction Mexican cartels.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she would send in special operations “to take out the cartels.” She also promised to enlist 25,000 more Border Patrol agents, as well as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers “on the ground and let them do their job.”
Haley said, if president, she would restart the Remain in Mexico Program, formally called the Migrant Protections Protocol program and said “instead of catch and release, we’ll go to catch and deport.”
Businessman entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said he would send the U.S. military “to seal our own southern border. What we need to do is stop using our military to protect somebody else’s border halfway around the world, when we’re short right here at home. Get serious about protecting this border.”
Ramaswamy said he would build a wall on both the northern and southern borders. He said enough fentanyl was recovered on the northern border in Fiscal Year 2023 to kill over 3 million Americans.
“Don’t just build the wall, build both walls,” he said.
Ramaswamy also criticized Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and said: “AMLO get out of the way.”
The 10-minute debate exchange on the border followed various references to the Southwest border throughout the debate from most.
Several referred to Mexican cartels as “terrorists” and said they threaten American families.
NBC News hosted Wednesday’s debate in which Republican frontrunner former President Donald Trump did not participate.
The Republican National Committee earlier this month announced the next GOP presidential debate will be Dec. 6 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.