U.S. Dist. 23 Representative Tony Gonzales last week spoke with the Avalanche about walls, technology, Title 42, and several other aspects of the ongoing border crisis.
In response to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s recent announcement that the state would build its own border wall after President Joe Biden canceled construction contracts as one of his first acts in office, Gonzales said a wall alone wouldn’t solve the problems.
He acknowledged that walls work, but said a layered approach was needed to effectively secure the nation’s southern border.
A physical barrier is one of those layers. Technology is another. And according to Gonzales, the third and most critical layer is manpower.
“Nothing beats boots on ground. It’s a system, and only when you have all parts of this system can you effectively secure your border,” he said. “I am happy to see Texas do more, but it’s sad that states have go it alone because the federal government started this crisis, and only when the federal government changes its policies will this crisis go away.”
Gonzales called securing the Texas border “my number one focus,” and said the issue consumes 90% of his time and energy. By so far hosting 25 members of Congress at the border, he has shown them the “full-blown, chaotic crisis” that’s happening from El Paso to Brownsville, and everywhere in between.
“By getting so many members down here and engaged, it gets more people willing to solve the problem,” he said.
As far as solutions, Gonzales recently introduced a bipartisan bill to add more immigrant processing centers. He noted 40% of Border Patrol agents were now working in processing centers, not in the field. A second provision would add 150 judges to hear immigrant cases within 72 hours instead of years, and another would track unaccompanied immigrant children.
He also stressed that Title 42 must remain in place. Title 42 allows expulsion from the U.S. those who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present, a policy enacted in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus crisis.
“That’s not really a solution, but it prevents it from getting worse. The other is we need the administration to re-implement some policies that it took away. A lot of them were removed because they were Trump policies, but they worked,” he said.
Gonzales recently spent some time in the Border Patrol’s Big Bend Sector, a sector he said is often forgotten. He and another congressman visited with constituents in Alpine, Presidio, and Marfa, and with Border Patrol personnel.
“People talk about the Rio Grande Valley or El Paso or Laredo or Del Rio, but they never talk about the Big Bend Sector,” he said. “We spent the day hearing comments, and it’s much different than other sectors, in part because of its remoteness and low population.”
Addressing his constituents, Gonzales said, “You’re not alone. I fight for Texas 23 every single day. I work tirelessly to help us get to a point where we can back to other things and feel safe in our homes. That’s my number one focus right now.”
To reach out to Gonzales, visit gonzales.house.gov.