WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, accused his fellow Republicans of politicizing the border for their own benefit, further escalating his standoff with more conservative members of his party who he said stood to gain from a sustained migration conflict.
“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,” Gonzales tweeted Thursday night in an apparent reference to border legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin.
Roy and Gonzales have been going head-to-head on border security for weeks. In January, Roy introduced legislation, dubbed the Border Safety and Security Act, to give the secretary of Homeland Security the ability to shut down border crossings and detain asylum-seekers while their cases are processed in court. Gonzales was one of the most vocal Republican opponents to that plan, saying it would in essence create a mechanism to end asylum — a characterization Roy denies.
The bill was slated to get a floor vote early this Congress but was instead sent to the House Homeland Security Committee for further debate after it became clear there would not be enough votes for it to pass the House. Gonzales sits on the committee.
The bill faces little chance of passage with a Democratic-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden’s veto power. Many Republicans in the Senate are striking a more moderate tone on border issues relative to the House, hoping to pass a bipartisan package due to the political realities of working in the minority.
“There’s a reason why we haven’t gotten significant border security done and why we haven’t seen significant immigration reform done,” Gonzales said in an interview with the Washington Examiner published Thursday, referring to members on both sides of the aisle. “It is in the interest of many politicians to have this crisis continue to flare up.”
“Others can posture, and others can drop bills that are messaging and blame the other side,” Gonzales added. “I don’t have that luxury.”
In a statement to The Texas Tribune, Roy responded that the way to depoliticize the border is to “end the crisis.”
“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,” the statement said.
Republicans have made the southern border one of their principal attack points against the Biden administration, accusing the president and his top aides of neglecting the issue amid record apprehensions. Texas Republicans in the U.S. House took a lead in outlining a strict border security plan late last year that has since become the conference’s main strategy for curbing migrant crossings.
Gonzales is a close ally of a bipartisan group of senators urging the House to get a package coupling border security legislation with immigration reform. U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Arizona, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, created an outline to do so late last year, consulting with border members including Gonzales and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, helped Sinema lead the Senate group to the Texas and Arizona borders last month.
Democrats took solace in Gonzales’ opposition to Roy’s legislation. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, ranking member Jerry Nadler, D-New York, quoted Gonzales in calling legislation to ban asylum “not Christian” and “anti-American.”
Gonzales and Cuellar have also worked together in the past on legislation to combat suicide among U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and to build more migrant processing capacity at the border. They presented a centrist State of the Union response this year after Biden’s annual address.
The two South Texans were also close on the campaign trail, appearing together on media hits — a dynamic that irked many Republicans eager to flip the longstanding Democratic district. Roy stumped for Cuellar’s challenger, Cassy Garcia, traveling to the district for an October rally last year.
Roy has defended his bill as enforcing asylum law but ending policy allowing asylum-seekers to wait for months or years in the country while their cases are heard.
“It absolutely allows for asylum claims, but it puts the responsibility on the Homeland Security secretary to do his job,” Roy said in an interview with the Tribune last month. “You can’t come here and claim asylum when you don’t have an actual asylum claim.”
“Tony ought to read the bill and read current law,” Roy told “PBS NewsHour” earlier this month.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/02/17/tony-gonzales-chip-roy-border/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.