The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Tony Gonzales that aired on Sunday, Dec. 18. 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales whose district covers more than 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in West Texas. Good morning to you, Congressman.
REP. TONY GONZALES: Good morning, Margaret. Thank you for having me on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard the Senator they’re calling for reform. But as you know, unless the Supreme Court steps in here, Title 42 is going away. What has the federal government told you is coming to your community in the coming days?
REP. GONZALES: Yeah, it is a dire situation in El Paso. As you know, the city declared a state of emergency. This is something you do when there’s a hurricane, a fire or an earthquake. What is happening is it’s a hurricane of migrants, and everyone is impacted. I represent 823 miles of the southern border. I’ve seen this exact play play out a year ago in Del Rio is what’s happening in El Paso now. You know, I was just in El Paso a few days ago, and what I saw at the migrant center I had never seen before. I have visited- I had visited the processing center there many times. And what I saw were hundreds, over 500 migrants in a- in a pod, they call them pods, essentially a large cell that holds about 100 people. There’s one bathroom, the odor is terrible. And there’s eight pods in there. And so those are the good conditions. Outside just above the hill, there’s a thousand, a little over 1000 migrants waiting in outdoor conditions, not to mention the people that are waiting by the- by the- by the bridge and elsewhere. It’s a very dire situation in El Paso.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I just want to say to our viewers who are just looking there at video that you provided to CBS that I believe you shot inside those facilities.
REP. GONZALES: I did.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are relying on that cell phone video, in part because CBS News and other media organizations have not been permitted to film recently inside those facilities. Why do you think it is important for the public to see what’s happening inside?
REP. GONZALES: Yeah, Margaret, I visited there for a few reasons, to know the ground truth and to be able to share the ground truth, also, to let the- the Border Patrol agents that are under incredible amounts of stress, know that they’re not forgotten. And what I saw shocked me, and I wanted to share that with the world. It’s not about politics. It’s not about you know, trying to create this- this image that isn’t there. This is the reality. This is the facts. We’re not even at the worst of it yet. Hundreds of people stuck in a- in a small area is not good for everyone. What I also saw was people without socks and jackets, it’s going to be you know, in the teens later this week. So it’s- it’s a very sad situation all the way around. But I also say enough with the finger pointing. I don’t care how we got here. How do we get out of here? And there’s some things that the administration can immediately do–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Like what?
REP. GONZALES: to alleviate this stress. Yeah. Look, the Biden this isn’t the- the first time an administration has had a crisis, every presidency about President Obama, Trump
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure, this is a hemispheric surge of migrants, though. This is a hemispheric crisis.
REP. GONZALES: That’s true. We’ve never seen it like this though. So what are some of the things that the administration can to do? Title 42 is gone, we have pushed and pushed and pushed, we’re three days away from that being gone. What are some of the things that the administration could do, they can re-implement a couple of programs that made sense, PACER and the HEART program, that’s essentially having immigration judges at the border, meaning you get your asylum case heard in days, not years. And if you do not qualify for asylum, you get returned back to your country of origin via repatriation flights, you turn that process back on with there’s some enforcement and all of a sudden the stress gets down. I worry if that doesn’t happen, we may be shutting bridges down. The city of El Paso produces $138 billion worth of trade, you shut down one day of that trade and commerce, that $60 million. It’ll impact everybody, not just those that live along the border.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the Biden administration is asking Congress for $3.4 billion to prepare for this- this surge. Do you think this will happen? Would you vote for it?
REP. GONZALES: I think it’s needed. I think it’s absolutely needed. But throwing money at a problem does not solve a problem. You can have an unlimited amount of soft sided facilities. The problem is enforcing the laws that are already on the books. I’d also argue the bulk of people that are coming over are just trying to live a better life. I get that. They’re coming here for economic- economic opportunities, but that doesn’t qualify for asylum. Going back to immigration reform, I would love to have a conversation with the administration to work through something work visas make sense to me. Pathway to citizenship, amnesty that is dead on arrival. What people have tried before have- has no chance of working. You got to start and build out from there. I hosted the pres-
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay–
REP. GONZALES: I hosted the President in the valley and you know, six months ago and I asked him, Mr. President, I’d love to visit with you about the border. He agreed to it. But yet I’ve yet to have that conversation with him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you’re- you’re putting your finger on the need to get bipartisan legislation done. But I gotta be honest with you, a lot of your fellow Republicans are not talking that way. In fact, there’s there’s calls as you know, to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary. We had Michael Chertoff on this program, the Bush era Homeland Security Secretary recently, a Republican who said this was a political stunt, a waste of performance on impeachment, never going anywhere. How do you defend your party prioritizing impeachment, when you’re saying it is a dire crisis in need of substantive legislation?
REP. GONZALES: We certainly have to secure the border. It’s very difficult to have the conversation on immigration reform when- when the border is not secure. But I also say I’ve hosted nearly 100 Members of Congress these past two years
MARGARET BRENNAN: I asked you about impeachment.
REP. GONZALES: Impeaching Mayorkas?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, what Republican leadership is talking about prioritizing?
REP. GONZALES: Yeah, I think that’s going to- hearings are going to absolutely take place. And where that leads us, who knows, but I take impeachment extremely serious. That isn’t a case of emergency, break glass. But impeachment. That’s a long process. The city of El Paso needs help today, not a year from now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Congressman, good luck to you and your community. In the coming days. We will be tracking everything, Congressman Gonzales..
REP. GONZALES: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.
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