Congressman-elect French Hill: Committee Spot, Immigration, & Racial Justice

Dec 8, 2014

U.S. Rep.-elect French Hill (R-2nd Dist.)
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Kauffman: I’m joined by central Arkansas’s Congressman-elect French Hill. Thanks for coming down.

Hill: My pleasure, good to be with you.

Committee Assignment

Kauffman: It’s not quite final yet, but you’ll be taking your seat next month and you’ve already received a committee assignment – and it’s an important one. You’ll be dealing with housing, banks…names like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

You’re well known, and respected, among Little Rock’s business community. You founded a bank of your own, you certainly have knowledge that’s complimentary to the House Financial Services Committee. But it also presents the picture of the fox guarding the hen house, that spector. How do you make your case for not showing favoritism to an industry you’ve known for so long?

Hill: Excellent question, I have had in my career the opportunity to work as a staffer on the Senate banking committee back in the 80s and also in the US Treasury Department helping oversee economic policy manner of the Treasury Department. That combined with my private sector banking career gives me that balance I think to stay focused on that important balance between regulatory oversight and protection of consumer interests and a fair capital market system and economic growth.

Just one story, when I was at Treasury I was responsible with the Securities and Exchange Commission for putting Drexel, Burnham, Lambert, resolving that company when it failed due to bad business practices. So, I think I’ve got experience on both sides of the equation.


Kauffman: Since the election, President Obama has announced some major immigration changes through an executive order. What do you think about the mechanism the President used and the substance of the order?

Hill: What the President did was a mistake. I think he should have waited until the new Congress took its oath in January to work with a new majority in the Senate, along with House Republicans, to try to craft an immigration bill where there was agreement. His effort could with some of those members burn a bridge because of the technique that he used. I’m concerned about that. I think it could begin our debate on a bad foot when January comes. I was not a fan of his approach and I think he overreached his statutory authority by doing it.

Kauffman: Has he burned a bridge with you?

Hill: No, I think for me immigration’s an important issue and I’ve talked during the campaign that we need to continue to work together to find the things that we can agree on and move those forward in the areas of border security, visas for people who come here to work and study, some form of a worker program…which I think would reduce illegal immigration over a long period of time because if people knew they could enter the country, work for a seasonal or temporary basis and then go back to their home country and come back and forth then you would actually reduce one of the big incentives, I think, to come to this country.

Kauffman: One of your Republican colleagues, Senator-elect Tom Cotton regularly links immigration with the threat of terrorism. Do you generally feel the same?

Hill: Well, I believe that border security is a top issue for both Republicans and Democrats. It’s an issue that everyone in the country is concerned about because they don’t believe that we can ever really reform our immigration system if we’re not taking care of first principles which is how people come and go at our borders. That’s why border security is an important point.

Kauffman: The attention of many has turned to the events in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, and Little Rock with 15 year old Bobby Moore not too long ago. Department of Justice statistics show black people are four times more likely to die in an arrest than whites. How do you feel about the premise, to put it mildly, that police officers don’t deal fairly with black people?

Hill: This is of course one of the great tragedies in our country right now that I think everyone is talking about at home and around the workplace. In my judgment I think we should of course respect the legal system and respect the very difficult job our police officers have helping protect us, protect our homes, protect our streets. They have a very big challenge. I think chiefs all over the country are right now talking about training and how that’s being handled across the country to make sure that they’re doing a good job of training their officers on how to handle arrests.

So, I empathize with a lot of the concern expressed, and I share that concern, and I certainly think that we should respect local law enforcement decisions but the Department of Justice has an opportunity and an obligation to go in after the fact and review cases that they think need review and I think that’s the direction that’s happening with our D.O.J. now.

Kauffman: Former President Clinton just the other day spoke with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and said that young black people feel like “disposable commodities,” how do you make them feel otherwise?

Hill: You know, I was at the President’s speech. I thought it was a good set of remarks. That was one of the most touching moments in his talk. I’ve worked my whole career toward the belief that prosperity has to be shared among all of our citizens, across our entire community. I want to be the representative for everybody who lives in the 2nd Congressional district. I believe Bill Clinton’s comments about shared prosperity is a theme that we should take when we look at public policy issues.

As it relates to the particular matter, it’s why I’ve devoted so much of my time through scouting, through helping Dr. Fitz Hill at Arkansas Baptist move his agenda forward, to try to take concrete steps in our community to give hope, give aspiration to our young citizens black and white, but particularly those that grow up in our tough neighborhoods.

Kauffman: Central Arkansas’s Congressman-elect French Hill, thanks for joining us.

Hill: Thank you.