AUSTIN, Texas – Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican who represents a district in Texas that spans more than 800 miles along the border, warned that the surge of migrants crossing into the US illegally won’t stop until Congress takes action.
“Today it’s Del Rio and Eagle Pass and El Paso. Tomorrow, it’s your city, whether that’s Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Florida,” Gonzales told Fox News Digital on Saturday. “This is spreading. There’s no end in sight.”
There have been more than two million migrant encounters this fiscal year, including more than 203,000 just last month.
Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, center, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ride a U.S. Border Patrol air boat on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday, April 25, 2022 in Eagle Pass, TX.
(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
House Republicans unveiled their “Commitment to America” agenda this week, which calls for ending catch-and-release loopholes, requiring proof of legal status for a job, and increasing funding for infrastructure and advanced technology at the border.
Autonomous surveillance towers are a key piece of technology that Congress should fund for Border Patrol, Gonzales said.
The towers, which can be erected in just a few hours and reach 33 feet in height, scan the surrounding area and use artificial intelligence to detect both migrants and the human smugglers who traffic them.
“Every border sector is asking for more of these,” Gonzales said. “What you don’t hear too much about – the ‘gotaways’ – these are people that we know entered the country illegally, but we don’t know where they went. These towers would help with that. We would be able to identify these ‘gotaways.’”
Officials told Fox News in July that Border Patrol estimates there have been more than half a million migrants who have been detected by cameras and other towers but have slipped past agents this fiscal year.
The Biden administration has fended off criticism of its handling of the migrant crisis, claiming that it is working to reconstruct legal asylum pathways and targeting “root causes” of migration patterns in Central American countries, such as violence and climate change.
Gonzales, a Navy veteran who was elected in 2020 to Texas’s 23rd congressional district, broke with House Republicans to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
A banner hangs at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School, the site of a May mass shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers, on Friday, June 3.
The bill, spearheaded by fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a fellow Republican, enhances background checks for gun buyers younger than 21, incentivizes states to create red flag laws, and provides funding for a variety of mental health services.
Gonzales’ district includes Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered at an elementary school in May.
“Uvalde was the worst school shooting in Texas history and I wish this on no community,” Gonzales said.
“After that horrible incident, I had countless people reach out and say, ‘Hey, Tony, we have to do something,’” he continued. “We worked real hard on that piece of legislation to make sure, one, it did not infringe on people’s constitutional rights – that’s important. [And] that it had due process – equally as important. And ultimately, it was the largest investment in mental health in our nation’s history.”