‘It’s the right thing to do’

No other member of Congress oversees more territory along the southwestern border than Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales. Stretches about 800 miles along the border between the United States and Mexico, Texas ’23rd The district has often been zero for the continued migration increase.

In the last two months alone, border authorities have encountered nearly 65,000 migrants at the Bend and Del Rio border sectors, which run across Gonzales’ district. This figure stands at just a fraction of the over 1.85 million migrants who have been encountered at the southwestern border since Gonzales took office.

Gonzales, a former naval officer of Mexican-American descent, was elected to serve the politically moderate Latin American majority in 2020 following the retirement of former Congressman Will Hurd. During his campaign, he centered on border security and stability among his key issues. He told Newsweek that the realization of this goal requires an immigration reform.

“(Immigration reform) is an issue that is in my face uninterrupted and it’s just the right thing to do,” Gonzales said. Newsweek“This country has just been going back and forth for too long, and the problem is that it is a political winner for both parties to be able to throw it around, but the loser is the American public.”

Over the past year, Gonzales’ district has paid the price for America’s often criticized border enforcement and immigration strategy. He said people living in his predominantly rural area, a number of whom live directly on the border, have seen their property damaged and face fears over the uncertainty surrounding who might cross their land.

Newly elected members of Congress participate in briefings on
“(Immigration reform) is a topic that is in my face uninterrupted and it’s just the right thing to do,” Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales told Newsweek. Here, Gonzales arrives at the US Capitol on November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC
Photo by Samuel Corum / Getty Images

While Gonzales beats the Biden administration’s early efforts to undo measures taken by the Trump administration and believes it could do more to ensure security, he said addressing the core of the issues starts in Congress.

Gonzales sees much of the current measures being taken to counter the rise in migration as “Band-Aids,” which does little to prevent migration rises from occurring again in the future. With policies around entry often changing with the president’s administration, Gonzales said criminal smuggling organizations often review recent changes and take advantage of news around the political shifts to convince desperate migrants to pay them for passage to the United States.

“They are the ones who really create the migrants and give them information,” Gonzales added.

News media, including Reuters, New York Times, and Texas Tribune all report that inconsistent enforcement and confusion around immigration policies has played a role in forcing desperate people already facing gang violence, economic hardship and food insecurity to make the decision to cross the border.

The lack of clarity fuels illegal smuggling companies to give their potential customers compelling promises, which ultimately results in these individuals ending up in situations where they violate the laws of the country. Gonzales said Congress should introduce a policy that does not encourage illegal immigration and instead offers feasible, clear paths for qualified people to pursue their “American dream.”

TOPSHOT-US-MEXICO-HAITI-MIGRATION
Over the past year, border authorities have encountered over 1.5 million people at the southern border. In this photo, Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande River for food and water in Mexico after another crossing was closed near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, on September 19, 2021.
Photo by PAUL RATJE / AFP via Getty Images

“It’s been hard to find people who want the conversation at all. It seems like everyone’s in their corners, but I keep pushing,” Gonzales said. “Ultimately, this is about national security.”

Gonzales fears that with the continued shifts in immigration enforcement comes the risk of a potential terrorist threat that could be triggered by a bad actor gaining access to the country.

As more people continue to take the trip north, the frontier resources will continue to be stretched and some individuals may slip through the cracks. Over the past year, border authorities have encountered at least three people – two from Yemen and one from Saudi Arabia – who have been branded as potential terrorists.

While addressing this issue and averting the flow of migrants by providing international clarity on who can enter the country, it is something that needs to be tackled in the long term, but Gonzales offered a number of recommendations on what the administration can do to solve the problem in the short term semester.

The congressman asked the Biden administration not to fire any border agents facing potential layoffs this month as a result of the federal vaccine mandate. He introduced the law on border agents Staying Employed (BASE) in mid-December with the aim of offering vaccination alternatives. Gonzales also suggested that Newsweek that the administration moves to expand the agency’s technological repertoire by adding more drones that can support agents when monitoring remote areas of the border.

“These simple things, I think, would go a long way in helping back up or isolate a border patrol that is past a breaking point,” Gonzales said. “When a terrorist threatens, they are not targeting Republicans or Democrats, they are just trying to kill Americans. Everyone should have a safe border.”

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