The following is the transcript of an interview with Rep. Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, that aired on “Face the Nation” on April 30, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to immigration and the ongoing effort to secure America’s southern border. We’re joined by Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales. He’s at our affiliate in San Antonio, KENS 5. Thank you for joining us this morning.
REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): Thank you for having me, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I don’t have to tell you this date of May 11. But for our viewers, that’s when this health emergency restriction known as Title 42 will expire. Homeland Security is looking at 10,000 people per day potentially crossing the border. Do the agents you represent have what they need to deal with the surge?
REP. GONZALES: They do not, Margaret. And this is honestly the fourth time that we’ve seen this Title 42 is going to end and every time we come to this situation before the crisis is this uptick in illegal immigration and we’re seeing that now whether it’s Brownsville, whether it’s Eagle Pass or whether it’s El Paso. Now it’s all three of those areas. And so the numbers are getting worse. The agents are beyond an exhausting point. And it’s not just at the border. Now what you’re seeing is places 100, 150 miles from the border are just as overwhelmed as if they were on the Rio Grande themselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you are set to vote in the House on May 11 on a border bill. You’re part of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, which had opposed the Republican bills on the grounds that you needed provisions in it to help legal migrants in the asylum process. I know you are now on board, dropped that position. What changed for you? And is there anything in here that can get through a Democratic controlled Senate?
REP. GONZALES: Yeah, Margaret, it’s an exciting time for the Congressional Hispanic Conference, which I’m the co-chair with Mario Diaz-Balart. It’s- we’ve got 18 different members. It’s the first time we’ve set a marker down and said our voices will be heard. One of the- I’ve been very public, I’ve essentially negotiated both in public and in private. One of the things that I in particular asked for is to not curb illegal immigration, not hamper those that are legally doing the things that they need to do to come over and a lot of that was stripped away in the judiciary part of it, which was half of the package. The homeland security package, which I sit on that- that committee, I asked for some specific things. One was ensuring that we hold cartels accountable. You want to get to the root of the cause, they’re the issue. So we go down this path of labeling cartels as terrorists. Another is giving resources to the people that are doing the work.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that do?
REP. GONZALES: We added 110- Yeah, 110 million for deputy sheriffs and- and local law enforcement officers. I did a ride-along with the Medina County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. Once again, this is 120 miles from the border. Their police cruisers are getting- are getting trashed and- and other things. And the last piece is we got to give a pay raise to the border patrol agents. They got a $9,000 bonus in this aspect. But we got to go further.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, well, on that House bill you just voted for to lift the debt ceiling in exchange for cuts, the White House argues it would mean cutting funding for Customs and Border Protection. Do you have any guarantees from Republican leadership that in future deal, there won’t be cuts to the agents you represent? Because you just signed a bill that would do that.
REP. GONZALES: Look, I was on the fence. It was 215 to 215 when I ended up voting in favor of the debt ceiling. So I have some very deep concerns with- with the direction we’re going. Universal cuts don’t- don’t always solve the issue. In the same breath, just throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve the issue. So what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to go where is the money going? How does DHS instead of getting them a blank check? How do we give them money to the things that are going to help secure the border? Like repatriation flights. These are flights where people that do not qualify for asylum, they don’t get flown to New York or D.C. or Chicago, they get flown back to their country of origin. That is how you solve the border crisis. Other things like hiring Border Patrol agents, but you can’t just give DHS a blank check and have them go spend it on all these things that is only encourages illegal immigration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I have more about- about this to get into with you, but I have to take a quick commercial break so please stay with us, Congressman. And we’ll be back with all of you and a lot more Face the Nation in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation, we return to our conversation with Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales, who joins us from San Antonio this morning. Congressman, I want to pick back up on border security. Migrant families after May 11, if they cross into the U.S. illegally, will not be detained by the Biden administration. The Trump and Obama administrations did detain families. Should families be detained?
REP. GONZALES: There should be repercussions for people that enter the country illegally. And this is where the Biden administration is getting wrong. First off, they’re doing more and I appreciate the fact that they’re trying different things. It’s taken them awhile, but I appreciate that. This is what they’re getting wrong. They’re putting all their time and effort into illegal immigration, finding ways to increase capacity, finding ways where people can come over illegally, quicker. The reality is nine out of 10 people that come over into our country illegally do not qualify for asylum. So stop sending them down that route when you know they’re not going to qualify for asylum. I am of the mindset we need to encourage those to come over legally. I believe through work visas. Once again, I’m–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You would have to change the asylum laws though. That’s Congress.
REP. GONZALES: You do have to- you do have to change the asylum laws. And it’s- it’s something that the President should work with Congress on. You haven’t heard the President say one thing about immigration, other than just blame others. Congress has a role to play. I think that us passing this bill in the House on security is important. The next step is immigration reform. I am committed to doing that. You haven’t seen anyone even try immigration reform in the past decade. I think it’s long time that we do something, in my opinion that starts with protecting those that are doing it legally through work visas.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So just to be clear, do you think it’s humane to keep kids in detention centers with their parents?
REP. GONZALES: I think there needs to be a process where folks have their asylum claim heard in days, not years. And if they qualify for asylum, welcome to the United States. And if they don’t, you have to send them back to their country of origin. What- what we can’t do is what we’re having now. Right now we have tens of thousands of children that are just being released into this country. What is happening to these children, regardless of their legal- legal identity, I mean, what is happening to these children- these children so we have to enforce the laws that are on the books and we have to encourage those to come over legally. Make it easier for folks to obtain work visas.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, well, Health and Human Services takes those kids custody of them but- but point taken on needing to watch what happens next. Congressman, thank you very much for your time today.
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