WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, has escalated his standoff with more conservative members of his party by accusing them of attempting to politicise the border for their own benefit.
Gonzales appeared to be referring to border legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, on Thursday night when he tweeted, “Anyone who thinks a 3 page anti-immigration bill with 0% chance of getting signed into law is going to solve the border crisis should be buying beach front property in AZ.”
For weeks, Roy and Gonzales have sparred over who is more responsible for securing the border. Roy introduced the Border Safety and Security Act in January to authorise the Secretary of Homeland Security to close border crossings and detain asylum-seekers pending the outcome of their court cases. Gonzales was a leading Republican voice in opposition to the plan, arguing that it would amount to a “mechanism to end asylum,” a claim that Roy strongly disputes.
Early in this Congress, it became clear that there were not enough votes to pass the bill, so it was sent to the House Homeland Security Committee for further debate. Gonzales is a part of the board of directors.
Democrats control the Senate and President Joe Biden has the power to veto the bill, so its chances of becoming law are low. As a result of being in the minority, many Senate Republicans are taking a more moderate stance on border issues than they did in the House. They are doing this in the hopes of passing a bipartisan package.
In an interview published by the Washington Examiner on Thursday, Gonzales blamed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for the lack of progress on border security and immigration reform. There are many politicians who stand to benefit from the continued escalation of the current crisis.
Some can “pose,” while others can “drop bills that are messaging and blame the other side,” as Gonzales put it. “I can’t afford that right now.”
Roy responded by telling The Texas Tribune that “ending the crisis” is the key to depoliticizing the border.
The statement said, “You end it by stopping the releases that are contrary to existing law and are fueling the flood at the border, endangering Americans and migrants, while also hampering the legitimate asylum claims.”
Republicans have focused much of their criticism of the Biden administration on the issue of the southern border, saying that the president and his top advisors have ignored the problem despite the fact that there have been more border arrests than ever before. House Republicans from Texas led the way in outlining a strict border security plan late last year, which has become the conference’s main strategy for reducing migrant crossings.
Senators from both parties, including Gonzales, have been lobbying the House to pass a package that would strengthen border security and reform immigration policies. In consultation with border representatives like Gonzales and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) drafted a framework to do so at the end of last year. Last month, Sinema led a group of senators to the border between Arizona and Texas.
When Gonzales opposed Roy’s bill, it gave Democrats hope. Gonzales was quoted by New York’s ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, as saying that legislation to ban asylum was “not Christian” and “anti-American.”
Gonzales and Cuellar have previously collaborated on legislation to increase border processing capacity and decrease suicide rates among U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. They gave a relatively moderate response to Vice President Biden’s annual State of the Union address this year.
Many Republicans hoping to flip the traditionally Democratic district were frustrated by the closeness of the two South Texans on the campaign trail, where they frequently appeared together on media hits. Last year in October, Roy held a rally in the district to support Cassy Garcia, who was running against Cuellar.
Roy has argued that his bill will ensure that asylum law is followed while ending the policy that currently allows asylum seekers to remain in the country for months or even years while their cases are pending.
In an interview with the Tribune last month, Roy said, “It absolutely allows for asylum claims, but it puts the responsibility on the Homeland Security secretary to do his job.” To paraphrase: “You can’t come here and claim asylum if you don’t have a legitimate asylum claim.”
Earlier this month, Roy said on “PBS NewsHour” that “Tony ought to read the bill and read current law.”