Editor’s note: Big Tent Ideas always aims to provide balancing perspectives on the hottest issues of the day. Below is a column from Rep. Tony Gonzales arguing that Republicans can improve border security without turning away legitimate asylum-seekers. He opposes HR 29, Rep. Chip Roy’s Border Safety and Security Act. You can find a counterpoint here, where FreedomWorks for America Executive Director Noah Wall argues that Gonzales is undermining Republicans’ efforts to secure the southern border.
There is no question the Biden Administration has created the worst immigration crisis in U.S. history. Take it from me – I represent over forty percent of the southern border in Congress.
For two years since Biden took office, I have seen all angles of this chaos play out on the ground. From Eagle Pass to El Paso, Texas, high-speed smuggling chases, school lockdowns and property break-ins have become a regular occurrence in my district. Through daily conversations with Border Patrol agents, local officials, sheriffs and ranchers, my constituents all tell me the same thing: they need help today. Not tomorrow. Not a month from now. Today.
So as much as I could spend all day berating Secretary Mayorkas for his open borders agenda (and believe me, I’ve done my fair share), it’s clear by now that grandstanding won’t deliver solutions for my communities – only actions will. (RELATED: WOLF And LAW: Joe Biden Could Secure The Border Today. Here’s How)
During my first term in Congress, I hosted more than 90 of my congressional colleagues at the border. I also introduced legislation to increase penalties on fentanyl traffickers, expand grant funding for law enforcement partnerships and protect Border Patrol agents from being terminated by the COVID vaccine mandate. Recently, I pressured the Administration to reopen a Border Patrol station in Cotulla, Texas, placing 96 more agents on the front lines to defend against the cartels. I also helped appropriate millions of dollars to support our law enforcement with additional manpower, technology, and equipment.
These are realistic proposals. They translate into substantial results for my constituents. If Congress focused on reaching common ground around issues like these, the border would be better off overnight. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues prefer to score political points with messaging bills that will never be signed into law.
A perfect example is H.R. 29 — the “Border Safety and Security Act.” While the name sounds enticing, this legislation does nothing to fix the root causes of the problems at our border.
H.R. 29 bans people from claiming asylum if they can’t be detained for the entire length of their adjudication. Although it is the law for asylum-seekers to be held in custody, Border Patrol and ICE simply don’t have the space or manpower to house large groups of people over the long-term. Just last week, Rio Grande Valley Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez testified that Border Patrol does “not have that level of capacity in [their] facilities.”
To make matters worse, immigration courts are so backlogged that an asylum case can take up to four years to get resolved. Even under President Trump’s effective border security policies, thousands of asylum seekers were still released from detention because our border system is terribly underequipped and designed to fail.
Rather than fixing the underlying problems that lead to “catch and release,” H.R. 29 would just turn asylum-seekers away, regardless of whether they are fleeing a life-or-death situation. This could include Christians fleeing religious persecution in the Middle East or Ukrainians seeking protection from Russia. Not only is this un-American and inhumane — it’s just bad policymaking. If we shut off our asylum process at the front door, what makes us think this won’t lead to more human smuggling through our back door?
To be clear, our asylum system is broken and easily abused. Many claims — up to 80 percent — are illegitimate, yet anyone who knows how to pass the “credible fear” test can be released into the country, sometimes for years on end, until they get their day in court. By then, many won’t show up.
This is a glaring problem that creates a huge incentive for illegal immigration, but Congress needs to fix it from the ground up. It can do that by adding more immigration judges to the system, investing in Border Patrol resources, and deporting unmerited claimants more quickly. Settling on an all-or-nothing approach like H.R. 29 is not only anti-American, it would just kick the can down the road until another crisis flares up.
House Republicans now have the majority. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to show Americans that we can legislate responsibly. My constituents, who actually live along the border, can’t afford any more messaging bills. They need results today, not empty rhetoric like H.R. 29.
Tony Gonzales represents Texas’ 23rd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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