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Transcript: Rep. Tony Gonzales on "Face the Nation," May 14, 2023

Gonzales says "immigration reform gets … further behind"
Amid partisan fighting, Rep. Tony Gonzales says "immigration reform gets further and further behind" 07:20

The following is the transcript of an interview with Rep. Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, that aired on "Face the Nation" on May 14, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to go now to Republican Congressman Tony Gonzalez with more on what he is seeing at the border. Good morning to you, Congressman.

REP. TONY GONZALES: Good morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you have shared with us some videos that you filmed Friday inside a Customs and Border Patrol facility in El Paso. I want to show them to our audience now. And I want you to tell us what we're seeing here. Why do you think this is significant?

REP. GONZALES: Yeah, first, I want to thank Nikki Haley for coming to my district a month ago and spending the day with me seeing it firsthand. This is what I'm hearing on the ground from mayors, from border patrol agents, from embedded media, everyone is saying it's not that bad. So, on Friday, I visited El Paso and went to the Central Processing Center. And you're seeing these videos, and this is what not that bad looks like. In that- in the El Paso sector. There's over 6,000 people that are in custody in this particular facility. It's meant to house 1,000 people, it's housing over 3,000. In one of these rooms, it's meant- the max capacity is 90 people, there was over 400 in here, that's a 450% capacity. In another room meant- meant to house 120 people, there was over 700 people in there. We can't allow not that bad to be the normal. Just this week, there was a migrant child that died in HHS custody. It's only the second time in history. I'm not looking to point fingers I'm trying to go- we should not allow not that bad to be the normal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that was the second death that we know of during the Biden administration of a child in custody. There were about six during the Trump administration. And it is horrific, I agree with you, in terms of children passing away like that. But to the point you're making about overcrowding. This is at the very heart of a legal dispute right now, as you know, in a Florida court, a federal judge has blocked the Biden administration from releasing migrants, even though the administration said they would monitor migrants if they had to release them. They're doing that because of the overcrowding. So, what is the alternative if a court is saying-a judge is saying this?

REP. GONZALES: Yeah, the Biden- This is where I disagree with the Biden administration. The Biden administration is getting it wrong, because they're so focused on illegal immigration. They're trying ways to streamline it with the app and-and other areas. What needs to happen is we need to focus on legal immigration. This is what is happening. You've got- you've got McCarthy on one side, Kevin McCarthy on one side that is demonizing those that come over illegally. You've got Chuck Schumer on the other side in the Senate that makes it a morally good thing to help people that are coming over illegally. Who gets hurt in this is people that have legal claims. You mentioned it earlier, legal, legitimate asylum claims. And immigration reform gets further and further behind when we only focus on the illegal part. What we have to do is we have to enforce the laws that are already on the books. And Congress has to create a route where people can come over legally,

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, well, but to that point, if someone is asking, is waiting on processing, and they need to be held, they can't be deported, or they are waiting for an asylum claim. What is the alternative to releasing them?

REP. GONZALES: The alternative is bringing- the president should have surged- should surge, immigration judges to the border and that person should get their case heard in days, not years. Right now, in El Paso, if you apply on the one app, I was at the port of entry, if you apply on the one app, your court date is 2031. I mean, that's eight years from now. The president can surge, instead of surging 1,500 troops, surge immigration judges, this is America. Get your day in court. If you do not qualify for asylum, which nine out of 10 people don't, you get sent back to your country of origin. The other part is this, where is Secretary Blinken in this argument? His job is to build relationships with Cuba, with Venezuela, with Nicaragua. He is nowhere to be found, everything is put on Secretary Mayorkas  to solve. It's unfair all the way around, in particular to the Americans that live here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying lift the sanctions off Cuba and Venezuela?

REP. GONZALES: I think someone should go there and have a conversation, you know, and work with these places. I mean, these places aren't easy places to work. There's a reason why people are fleeing Venezuela, right? So instead of having them go down the asylum route, where we know they're not going to qualify, where they're gonna have to spend their entire lives living in the shadows. Why don't we create a route where people can come over legally? I think that's through work visas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well yeah, but you need to get a law passed. You need to work with Democrats to do that. So I need to ask you because you just said something about Speaker McCarthy and demonizing some migrants. Homeland Security Chair Mark Green said this morning he has a five point plan to build a case potentially to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He wouldn't say something like that if the speaker hadn't signed off on it. Is that where you should be focusing, Republicans should be focusing their energy right now instead of brokering deals on new laws, an impeachment?

REP. GONZALES: What do you see, as you see career politicians blame somebody else, it's always somebody else's fault and not them. And if the light can be shined on someone else, the more the better, the more the merrier. And right now the light is shining on Secretary Mayorkas. The reality- this is all of our problems starting with the president of the United States who needs to lead this country, and starting in Congress. And you're exactly right. I have been working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to come up with a piece of legislation that can get passed in the 118th Congress, not what I want, not what they want, what can we pass today to move the ball forward? I think this country needs leadership not-not pointing fingers at one another. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, is speaker McCarthy leading on migration and border reform?

REP. GONZALES: I think- we passed this H.R. 2 bill this week, and what you're gonna see is everyone's saying we did our part, you know, it's those Senate Dem- Senate Democrats that aren't doing their part. But in a district like mine, which is 42% of the southern border, 60% of El Paso County, we're not looking for symbolic bills that have no chance of becoming law. We only get help when a bill becomes a law and the stress is alleviated at all levels. What I'm seeing is this overcrowding is becoming normal. It's normal to release people. It's normal to have these folks live in the shadows, all of it is wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, I have to ask about one other thing you'd said in the past. If there were unchristian anti-immigrant bills brought to the floor by Republican leaders that you would block a vote to lift the debt ceiling, you use that as leverage to get some things taken out of this border bill that just passed. Have you committed to leadership that you will vote yes on any debt ceiling bill that the speaker is able to get through in terms of his negotiations?

REP. GONZALES: I have not. Yeah, no, that's what that's what leadership, whether it's Democrat or Republican always wants you, they want you to give your vote away to them. I'm not- my vote is for the people of the 23rd district. And one of the things that I've fought so hard in H.R. 2 was to make sure that these anti-immigrant bills like H.R. 29, died on the vine. This was a bill that banned legal, legal claims. That's what I've been fighting for, and many in Congress. There is a new generation of both Republicans and Democrats that are fighting for legal immigration, and we are absolutely against illegal immigration. I think you're gonna see our voice get louder and louder as we go on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We will be tracking that work. Thank you very much, Congressman. FACE THE NATION's back in a minute.

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