U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said last week immigration and securing the country’s southern border are an “incredibly complex” issue that will take years to address.
Johnson, who chairs the Senate’s committee on homeland security and governmental affairs, also said fencing should be considered, but he cautioned that solutions will need to be “multi-faceted” over a number of years.
The remarks came at a Wednesday, Aug. 19 town hall meeting in Black River Falls where the Republican also touched on the Iran nuclear deal, taxes, Planned Parenthood funding and the status of Social Security as he fielded questions from a group of about 15 attendees.
“Border security is a huge issue and a huge problem,” said Johnson, first elected in 2010 after defeating three-term incumbent Russ Feingold. “Certainly fencing works and in some areas we need to put it up.”
The comments on border security came after concerns raised by John Willock of Merrillan who urged stronger action on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We spend a lot of money ... but we seem not to have as much attention paid as should be paid to the southern border,” Willock said.
Jerry Sweeney of the town of Garden Valley asked Johnson about his position on the Iran nuclear deal, which Johnson argues is a treaty – not an executive agreement – that is a “bad deal for America and world peace.”
“I just think this is a really bad deal,” Johnson said. “(President Obama) is just doing this on his own, and there’s not much we can do about it.”
Dennis Gjerseth questioned why Johnson has characterized Social Security as a “legal Ponzi scheme,” which the senator again reiterated and said the federal assistance program for the elderly and disabled will need to be addressed by Congress.
He said he’s presented different proposals for reform, but they haven’t generated serious discussion.
“Unfortunately, we’re not close to sitting down and doing that, as much as I have been trying,” said Johnson, who’s being challenged by Feingold in the 2016 election.
A question from Gjerseth also prompted Johnson to discuss the nation’s tax system, which the senator said “needs to be scrapped.” He said he favors an income-based tax in part based on one’s ability to pay, and the senator also said government intervention has stifled economic growth.
“... the problem is we’ve been growing government, and it’s been getting in the way of growing the economy,” he said.
The town hall’s discussion also touched on federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services. The organization recently has experienced criticism after videos surfaced where group leadership discussed harvesting fetal tissue.
“I think Planned Parenthood has an awful lot to answer for,” Johnson said.