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In battle over border security, Texas Congressman wants focus to turn to legal immigration

Rep. Tony Gonzales says the latest iteration of the GOP border bill is a good start and could garner bipartisan support.

AUSTIN, Texas — While Congressional Republicans still have much to do before passing legislation addressing border security and immigration, they’ve made significant progress on their key issue in recent days.

Members of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee began debating one such bill, the “Border Reinforcement Act,” within the last week.

While the top Democrat on the committee called the bill “profoundly immoral,” signaling a battle ahead, it has gained Republican support.

That includes Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales (R-San Antonio), who opposed earlier GOP proposals.

“I represent 42% of the southern border, over 823 miles. It’s tough for anyone to out-border me. And I think a lot of people understood that. There were some initiatives that I wanted in there that we got in there,” Congressman Gonzales told us on Inside Texas Politics.

The legislation would increase the number of Border Patrol agents and relaunch construction of the border wall.

Congressman Gonzales says it would also label Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

“What I envision by labeling them as terrorist organizations, it’s not sending in SEAL Team 6, it’s not sending in the Marines, it’s going after the one thing that hurts somebody the most, which is their pocketbook,” argued the Republican.

Complicating matters is the fact that Republicans also have a second border bill, which recently passed the House Judiciary Committee.

That measure is known as “The Border Security and Enforcement Act,” and Congressman Gonzales opposed it because he argued it took away too many paths for legal immigration and restricted asylum too much.

Some Republicans want to address border security and immigration in separate bills, while others want it all merged into one. The GOP has targeted mid-May to introduce the final legislation.

Congressman Gonzales sees them as separate issues and says the “Border Reinforcement Act” is a good start.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are for legal immigration, and we don’t hamper any routes that folks can come over legally or that are doing it the right way. This bill does all of that,” he said.

The GOP lawmaker says the country must turn its attention to legal immigration and he thinks strengthening the work visa program will solve a lot of problems.

While he thinks the “Border Reinforcement Act” will garner bipartisan support in the end, the work won’t stop there.

“In my eyes, this crisis doesn’t end with 218 votes in the House. This border crisis ends when the President of the United States signs a bill into law that tangibly has border security as well as meaningful immigration reform that I believe starts with work Visas,” said Gonzales.

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