MORGAN — U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop thinks border security should be the first step in immigration reform.

More specifically, U.S. Border Patrol agents should have more leeway to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Donald Trump can be “blunt and very brusque,” Bishop said, but his approach, at least at times, can be effective.

The ability to filibuster in the U.S. Senate, Bishop thinks, should be eliminated.

The eight-term Republican from Brigham City touched on those topics and more during town hall meetings Thursday in Morgan and South Weber, part of a series of public meetings this week in the 1st District. He shied from talk of his campaign for re-election, preferring to keep the focus on policy and the issues facing the U.S. Congress. But he took questions on a broad range of subjects, receiving praise for his work and facing pointed comments from some on hand.

“There should be no assault weapons on the street,” Norene Francis of South Ogden told the lawmaker at the Morgan event.

“And I disagree,” Bishop answered, saying an earlier assault weapons ban, since lifted, yielded no results.

Bishop, seeking what he says would be his last term in the U.S. House in elections this year, held town hall meetings earlier this week in Vernal and North Logan and finished off the tour with the stops in Morgan, which drew around 40 people, and South Weber, which drew around 150. He’s being challenged in his re-election bid by Democrat Lee Castillo, Eric Eliason of the United Utah Party and Adam Davis of the Green Party, who attended the South Weber event, sitting quietly and listening while Bishop spoke.

The filibuster — and Bishop’s frustration with it — was a repeated theme at the Morgan meeting. The House did away with the filibuster in the late 1800s, he said, and he thinks the Senate should eliminate use of the legislative maneuver because it is hindering the ability to pass legislation.

“A minority can stop everything and they do. That is part of my frustration,” said Bishop. “The ability of the Senate to filibuster, preventing considered debate of certain initiatives, is one of the “biggest impediments to progress right now.”

He faced queries about immigration reform at both meetings Thursday — about younger undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” Central American immigrants and more — but put the focus of his answer on border security. That, he thinks, is the starting point for a broader fix.

Because of federal controls on much of the land in the border area, Border Patrol agents’ ability for east-west movement in the sector in apprehending undocumented immigrants is limited. Relax that, and they’ll be better able to apprehend illegal border crossers, according to Bishop.

He’s not opposed to Trump’s proposal to add to the wall along the border, but building the physical barrier “is not the panacea.”

His response in Morgan — at least the notion of immigrants being illegal — drew fire from at least one man in attendance. “Unless you are Native American, we are all illegal,” said George Muller of Eden.

TRUMP, TRADE, EPA

Bishop offered pointed thoughts on Trump’s Twitter habit. “I hate tweeting. I wish he would not do it,” Bishop said.

But the president’s sometimes controversial manner, he thinks, can be effective, at least in some instances. “There are some things he does which are very blunt and very brusque and sometimes it produces results. Sometimes I worry about it and I cringe,” Bishop said.

Broadly, he said he agrees with most of Trump’s policy decisions, without singling out anything specific, and expressed alignment with the president’s view that China is engaging in unfair trade practices with the United States. Beyond that, he hedged, at least on trade issues.

“I don’t want to jump to conclusions right now,” he said, alluding to the series of tariffs recently implemented on foreign trade partners by the president. Some of Trump’s trade decisions and criticisms are “spot on,” others not so much.

Whatever the case, he thinks Congress should have control of trade matters, lamenting prior change that gave the power to the president. “Congress is the one who should pass tariffs, not the president, and certainly not through presidential decree,” he said.

In South Weber, as in Morgan, Bishop faced a query about reforming gun laws, in the context of the deadly shootings that periodically occur at schools. Some in the crowd clapped, but as in Morgan, Bishop rebuffed the notion that gun bans are the answer.

“We’ve tried it in the past it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work in the future,” he said.

On the environment, he praised the work of Utah regulators, saying they — not the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — have been and will be key in improving air quality here.

Utah regulators have done “a monumental job,” he said, saying air quality today is better than when he was growing up. “Keep working with the state. They’re doing a damn good job and they’ll keep doing that job... That is really where the solution lies.”

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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