Gonzales & Pfluger Push to Strengthen Security Along America’s Southern Border

“People don’t take us seriously around the world if we’re weak at home.”

WASHINGTON, DC – With a record number of migrants streaming across America’s southern border, The Ripon Society hosted a breakfast discussion yesterday morning with U.S. Reps. Tony Gonzales (TX-23) and August Pfluger (TX-11), who talked not only about how this crisis is impacting the people they represent back home, but how it is impacting the perception of America around the world.

Gonzales and Pfluger, who are both military veterans, were both elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020. They currently serve as Members of the House Homeland Security Committee, where Pfluger is Chair of, and Gonzales serves on the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement and Intelligence. Gonzales, whose district spans roughly 800 miles and makes up about two-thirds of the Texas-Mexico border, also serves on the Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement.

“The crisis turned on and it has not turned off, and that’s been tough,” Gonzales shared in his opening remarks. “I’ll give you an example. Yesterday I was speaking with the mayor of Eagle Pass. ‘Hey, so how’s everything going, Rolando?’ You can hear it in his voice, he goes, ‘You know what’s happening, Tony? It’s Groundhog Day here.’

“The conversation we had is the exact conversation I’ve had with him maybe 20 times. It’s as bad as we’ve ever seen it.”

Eagle Pass is home to the Camino Real Eagle Pass Port of Entry – making the city a hot spot for migrant crossings. The city made national headlines in September as the mayor declared a state of emergency after an unsustainable number of migrants flooded the city.

Gonzales continued.

“I look at this through the lens of solving the problem. We know what the problem is. It’s clear that’s been identified. It’s tough to not say it’s not a problem, because whether it’s the number of folks coming over illegally or whether it’s the amount of fentanyl that’s killing everybody, there is not one city in the United States that’s not impacted by this.

“When I see division, when I see this influx of problems, I see opportunity. There’s an opportunity to solve this, if we view it through the lens of a national security package. … And once again, I think there’s an opportunity for us to stand with Israel and to stand with our allies to stand with Ukraine as they defend against Putin’s invasion. I’m also of the mindset that you can’t just throw money at a problem and expect it to go away. That never works, ever. There has to be policy changes. There has to be real discussions. But there is an opportunity right now to get a border security package, Israel aid and Ukraine aid, if we can just manage the politics in it. I think we can do that. And I think, more importantly, the American people demand that.”

Pfluger, whose District neighbors the 23rd District of Texas, approached the issue from an international perspective.

“People don’t take you seriously around the world if you’re weak at home. And they certainly don’t take you seriously if there’s chaos, and if the rule of law is ignored. How do you compel an administration, a president, to gather the political will and to be strong? That is a very tough problem set.”

Pfluger, who led a bipartisan Congressional Member Delegation (CODEL) to Latin America this summer, brought up the amount of fentanyl that is flooding the country through the southern border and is killing thousands of Americans, much of which has been traced back to China.

“The Chinese Communist Party is using the cartel networks. They’re laundering money. It’s a very sophisticated method of getting product into the United States that’s causing the deaths and the cartels are not stupid, and they’re using people who are looking for a better way of life, who are trying to take care of their families. I can’t blame these people that are looking at the United States going, ‘we’re going there because that’s the opportunity.’ I cannot blame them at all, but there’s got to be an orderly manner in which we do business. And that is completely missing.

“I don’t think that this administration is going to actually have the political will to re-implement Remain in Mexico, the migrant protection protocols that the last administration put in place. But obviously, I will urge them to do that. I know that Tony has done that as well. To me, this is about political will. It’s about compelling the administration to take the steps to do what they have not done so far. And it’s causing a lot of chaos in our country.”

In the latter part of the discussion, the Congressmen fielded a number of questions. The first question referred to the “progress” the administration claims to be making through low-level, daily releases of migrants, and if the Congressmen had noticed any difference because of it.

“You cannot capacity yourself out of this problem. You can’t build enough soft sided facilities, that that’s the wrong approach, and that’s the way the administration is going,” answered Gonzales. “They’re just adding more money to it. All that’s doing is attracting more people to come over. The problem is, and August alluded to it, it’s the enforcement piece to it.”

Gonzales then commented on his recent trip to the southern border with Elon Musk, who then shared his experience on his social media platform X (formerly Twitter).

“We basically do this X Live deal that got over a hundred million views, a hundred million people. I’m talking [about] people that are not watching Fox News, or CNN for that matter. I’ve seen this. And they’re going, ‘This is crazy.’”

The Navy veteran also brought those who are trying to immigrate legally into the conversation.

“It’s not only about the people that are coming over illegally that we have to tackle. I mean, what about the people that are trying to do it the right way? I’ve told the administration, ‘Every day that you allow this to happen, all you’re doing is you’re making it harder for me and others in Congress to come together and have an immigration reform package that works.’ When they [the Administration] wave a wand and give work visas to 500,000 Venezuelans that are here illegally, what do you tell all those people that have been waiting in line to try to get a work visa? You tell them that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is to come over here illegally and you’ll be rewarded.”

Pfluger echoed his colleague’s remarks.

“No, I don’t think it’s getting better. I agree with Tony and have spent a lot of time as well talking with Senators about this very issue. Just look at the last 24-hour period. 10,281 people across all sectors.”

When asked about the relationship between aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and securing our southern border in the context of international security, Pfluger broke it down between policy versus politics.

“Are these issues linked policy-wise? Not really. Are they linked politically? Absolutely, 100%. We have people in our party that are isolationists, believe in populism, [and] don’t think that it’s right to partner up and have alliances. I disagree with that. I was in Europe stationed in NATO in 2014 when Crimea was taken. We remember that. It was called a bloodless conflict. But that happened. And we depend on our alliances, specifically the Five Eyes alliance, the NATO alliance, our partnerships with other countries throughout Eastern Europe and our alliances with Japan and Korea have, I believe, kept the world safer.

“As the funding is running out,” the Chairman continued, “this is a major priority for the White House. We as Republicans cannot allow Democrats to steal the national security narrative. We’re the party of national security. We need to regain that narrative and retake it, demand that they communicate to us, and then be reasonable about whatever package comes through.

“And politically, these things are linked together. I believe that the Speaker of the House is going to use the leverage knowing that the White House believes in supporting Ukraine. I believe in supporting Ukraine, but we’ve got to pair some of these things together. Those would include, probably not limited to, funding for Ukraine, funding to help Israel, funding to help in some sort of supplemental Taiwan, and obviously for border security. And that is policy.”

Gonzales noted that there are a number of external factors to consider when tying such large amounts of foreign aid to critical domestic issues.

“To be very frank, Americans are tired, and they’re going, ‘Wait a second here, what about us? I’m following the rules. I’m working my butt off. I’m doing all these different things and I’m falling further and further behind.’ And so now it’s getting more difficult to talk about foreign aid. ‘Why are we giving money to ‘fill in the blank’ country and what about us?’

“The other piece to it too is you can no longer do anything alone in this world. Borders are just lines. What happens in one place certainly impacts the other. We saw that during COVID and the supply chain. I mean, just all these different issues. So, I think it’s very imperative that the United States stand very firm with our allies.

“The other part I’d say too is, the deal is already there. The package is there. What lacks is this, Congress will do nothing unless there is a deadline and a cliff. And there is no Christmas deadline. There is no New Year’s deadline. So, you take that power away, and I’m going, ‘Well, you know, if you give us an opportunity to punt on first down, we will absolutely punt on first down.’”

When asked about the key things holding Congress up from producing and moving legislation regarding the southern border, Gonzales noted, “it’s less of a policy holdup. That’s not the problem. It’s more of how the politics are going to deal with it.”

Pfluger gave a two-pronged answer, both involving H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023.

“Number one, H.R. 2 is a toxic football for Senate Democrats. They’re just appalled that we would pass a border security bill. It really kind of surpasses the understanding of normal Americans, but they’re being driven. And I think it’s a very small group of progressives on the political side. I agree with Tony that this is political.

“Number two, I think when it comes to what’s involved in H.R. 2, or what’s involved in the foundational pieces of the policy that need to actually change, there is a disagreement. And there is a strong push from Senate Democrats that, anything to do with families, any policy at all to deal with families is a non-starter for them. Likewise, when it comes to what Tony was mentioning, about parole, the ability to raise asylum thresholds to a credible fear that you have to deal with asylum right now, you don’t let somebody go into the interior without actually investigating this case and adjudicating it in a timely fashion. And we don’t have the ability to do that right now. And that’s what pieces and parts of H.R. 2 would compel the administration to have to actually do this before you put them on a bus and send them to whatever city. So, I do think that there are some policy differences.

“Tony is right. Any American can look at this and go, ‘this is not right.’ Besides the political view of supporting your party, what’s happening is not right. Almost 8 million people in two and a half, three years. That’s insane.”

To view the Congressmen’s remarks before The Ripon Society yesterday morning, please click the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.