By Rudy Takala
December 4, 2016
A dentist by trade, plainspoken Rep. Brian Babin might seem like an unlikely figure to lead a charge for reform among his colleagues in the chamber. But with just two years in the House behind him, the Texas native is already heading a space subcommittee in the House, and could soon become the face of the congressional effort to expel criminals living in the U.S. illegally.
"I ran for 13 reasons," Babin said, referencing his grandchildren in an interview with the Washington Examiner. "I want them to have the same opportunities that I had when I was growing up. That's why I ran."
Babin did spend some time in local politics before entering Congress. He served on the city council and as mayor in the city of Woodville in the 1980s, and as president of the Texas Board of Dental Examiners at the same time.
He also ran for the House unsuccessfully in 1996 and 1998, after which he took a 16-year hiatus from politics. It wasn't until 2014 that Babin ran again and successfully, prompted, he said, by President Obama's policies.
As fate would have it, Babin may have the chance to pass one of his most prominent legislative proposals in 2017, under President-elect Trump.
The Criminal Alien Deportation Act would force the Department of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a list of countries that refuse to cooperate with the federal government's effort to deport criminal aliens who come to the country illegally, and enable Congress to cut off foreign aid to those countries.
The proposal faced bleak prospects under Obama, failing even to make it out of a House committee. But that outcome could change in a matter of months.
"This is one of Trump's planks. This is something that he has really hammered home, and I can tell you as a congressman who has met with some of the victims, this is a terrible problem," Babin said. "The government is ignoring its own citizens, endangering their lives and property for some politically correct reasons and enabling these criminal aliens to remain in this country."
Babin also sits on the House Science Committee, encompassing the space subcommittee over which he presides as chairman.
He noted he was optimistic that Trump would align more with his vision for space as well, focusing attention more on the sort of manned space flight that could come out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is in Babin's district, and less on projects associated with global warming, which were a priority under the Obama administration.
"There are over a dozen agencies in the federal government that can take care of that," Babin said. "There is only one agency responsible for human space flight, and that is NASA. We don't need to see any more reallocation of funding away from space into these other areas.
Washington Examiner: You had been out of politics for 16 years when you ran for Congress in 2014. What prompted your re-entry
Babin: The direction of the country. It was getting so opposed to what I felt the Constitution, the ideals of America, should be. We saw an overbearing executive branch going in the direction of a weak military, enormous deficits and national debt. We doubled the national debt under President Obama. Another issue was healthcare. As a healthcare practitioner, I can tell you, that's a huge issue. It still is.
I ran for 13 reasons. Those are my grandchildren. That's a fact. And my grandchildren range from 11 to nine or 10 months. I want them to have the same opportunities that I've had when I was growing up. That's why I ran.
It's been a frustrating two years in many respects. I'm elated about this election. I think this was a revolution at the ballot box.
Examiner: You have a proposal for cracking down on criminal aliens that has not passed, but that represents the most significant component of what the president-elect is seeking to accomplish. What prompted it?
Babin: One of the most egregious criminal aliens not being deported is this guy named Jean Jacques of Haiti. He got out of prison for attempted murder. We tried to deport him, but Haiti refused to take him back. Within a matter of just a few months, he had murdered a young lady from Connecticut. This is just one example of what's going on with our criminal alien problems.
Our president, since 2013, has released, I think, in the neighborhood of 86,000 criminal aliens. These are people who absolutely should not be here, and when they commit crimes, we have a hard time getting the administration to follow through with the law. We have these sanctuary cities where these criminals can set up shop.
When Haiti refused to take Jean Jacques back, the secretary of state had the right to cut off Haiti's visa program, and yet she did not. That was Secretary [Hillary] Clinton.
My bill would not only enable that to happen, it would cut off the foreign aid until such time as they start complying, and it would enable the families of the victims to sue the federal government in federal court.
This is one of Trump's planks. This is something that he has really hammered home, and I can tell you as a congressman who has met with some of the victims, this is a terrible problem. The government is ignoring its own citizens, endangering their lives and property for some politically correct reasons and enabling these criminal aliens to remain in this country.
Examiner: How long might it take to deport the estimated 2-3 million criminal aliens in the United States? And when that problem has been resolved, how would you prioritize other groups of individuals who are here illegally?
Babin: Right now, I'm interested in the criminal aliens. There are hundreds, even thousands of crimes, that run the gamut from murder to driving under the influence. As far as the timetable goes, that's going to be a bureaucratic decision. But I know it has to be addressed, and Congress needs to support this. There is no excuse for us to ignore our own citizens' safety.
Our first duty when we give our oath of office is to uphold our national security and the safety of our citizens. So it's got to be done. I hope it's as soon as possible.
Examiner: Are there executive actions you'd like to see taken when it comes to immigration policy under President-elect Trump?
Babin: Well, I think the first executive action should be to overturn the actions of his predecessor. They have been unconstitutional. They made end runs around Congress.
We tried to reverse and defund his executive order to grant amnesty to the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] folks, and we found we were unable to do that because there were slush funds being taken from legal immigrants' fees. They were going to use these fees to implement his citizenship plans for these folks.
So I think the first thing he needs to do is reverse every one of these egregious, over-the-top executive orders this president has made. Twenty-two times this president told the American people that he did not have the authority to grant executive-ordered amnesty and citizenship to these people that have come in, up to 5 million of them in DACA.
The president said he didn't have the authority to do what he did, and yet he came right up and did this. Fortunately, a federal district judge agreed with Congress, and enjoined the president from enforcing this. I think that proves he was making an end run around the Constitution and Congress.
Examiner: Do you think there is any sense within the Republican caucus that leadership may not be cooperative with Trump's immigration agenda?
Babin: I certainly hope not. I think this was a revolution at the ballot box. I keep hearing some folks in the mainstream media that this is not a mandate. This is historic. There has never been anything like this before in our history. This is a mandate.
The American people want to get back to the rule of law, not rule by fiat. No longer can there be a double standard of some being held to the rule of law and others not being held to the law.
I think that this was a paradigm shift. It changes the whole scene up here, within the Beltway and Washington. So I would certainly hope that our leadership would cooperate with the Trump agenda. I'm expecting them to.
Examiner: You also chair the subcommittee on space. Are there aspects of space policy you'd hope to see the Trump administration handle differently than Obama?
Babin: Absolutely. First off, we saw the cancellation of our Constellation program, where we were intending to go back to the moon. It originated under the Bush administration. Since that time, we have seen this president reallocate funding away from human space flight into climate change, earth sciences and global warming.
There are over a dozen agencies in the federal government that can take care of that. There is only one agency responsible for human space flight, and that is NASA. We don't need to see anymore reallocation of funding away from space into these other areas.
I had a good talk with then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence in Florida a couple weeks ago. He's very much in favor of a robust human spaceflight program at NASA. So that's what I would like to see changed.