Kuster, Negron differ on Saudi Arabia sanctions

October 16, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster said Tuesday she backs sanctions against Saudi Arabia in response to the possible death of a U.S.-based journalist, while her Republican challenger, Steve Negron, cautioned against rushing to judgment.

Kuster, who is seeking a fourth term in the 2nd Congressional District, and Negron, a state lawmaker from Nashua, met for a debate on New Hampshire Public Radio. They were asked about the disappearance of Saudi writer Jama Khashoggi, who Turkish officials fear was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia previously called the allegation “baseless,” but U.S. media reports suggest the Saudis may acknowledge Khashoggi was killed there, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation.

Negron said the U.S. shouldn’t let a “pack mentality” take over, citing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings as a bad example of that approach.

“We are a country that has due process, and we need to make sure we follow that regardless of whether it’s within the borders of our country or abroad,” he said. “If there are some things out there we should be looking into, I’m all for that. What I wouldn’t do is do what we did with the Kavanaugh hearings and rush to judgment. We have an opportunity here to listen.”

Kuster said protecting the freedom of the press is critical, and that Congress should move forward with sanctions.

“Particularly given the last two years of the Trump administration, journalism has really risen to the task of keeping people honest, and it’s a big challenge with this president,” she said. “I think what we’re hearing is the Saudis are about to come forward and recognize and tell the world (Khashoggi) was murdered, in fact, murdered and dismembered during an interrogation in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. I think it’s outrageous, I think Congress should act, and I think we should have sanctions.”

The two also disagreed on immigration reform. Though both candidates agree visa programs that bring seasonal workers to the state should be expanded, Kuster blamed Republicans for blocking further immigration reform. She said she supports strong borders, but there should be a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country illegally and protection for those who were brought here by their parents as young children.

“Over and over and over, the Republican leadership — and Mr. Negron would fall right in line with them — is blocking a legal pathway,” she said. “We need to expand opportunity for legal immigration, yet Republicans flat out refuse to do that, and it is harming our economy here in New Hampshire.”

Negron highlighted his Hispanic heritage and emphasized that his grandfather came to the United States from Mexico “the right way.” He said asylum seekers should be handled in a separate process from immigration, but said people who have spent decades in the U.S. know what the rules are.

“I find it interesting someone wants to sit on stage and talk to me, who is 100 percent Hispanic, about what we go through trying to get into this country,” he said. “We are a land of laws, there’s a right way to do it, we’re not doing it and we need to get back to it. I take umbrage when people try to paint me or any Republican and say we’re anti-immigration.”