ZAPATA Texas (Border Report) — Some lawmakers from the South Texas border are offering their solutions to deal with the current influx of thousands of migrants on the Texas-Mexico border, as lawmakers in Washington differ on border security solutions and debate the upcoming fiscal budget that could lead to a government shutdown at week’s end.
Two South Texas congressmen from different parties, and a state lawmaker who represents the hardest-hit region, all agree that a government shutdown would lead to U.S. Border Patrol agents continuing to work long shifts without being paid. And, they say, that could reduce morale and give trans-criminal organizations more impetus to send more undocumented migrants across the Rio Grande from Mexico into South Texas.
In conversations with Border Report, they say Congress needs to act.
“My Republican friends want to bring up four bills on the floor this week, out of the 12. But my question to them is where’s the main one? Where’s the CR (continuing resolution) so we can continue talking? We might have some differences. But the bottom line is we have to agree on keeping the government open, because otherwise Border Patrol agents, they keep working, like other folks do some of the law enforcement, because they’re essential, but they don’t get paid. And they got families, they got mortgages. And that’s why we got to do that,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, told Border Report.
Cuellar is a ranking member of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. He told Border Report that Mexico is key to stopping the thousands from crossing the border into the United States.
“We got to get Mexico to enforce that agreement. That is, they are supposed to be stopping people before they come in,” Cuellar told Border Report earlier this week in Zapata County, where he delivered $375,000 in Operation Stonegarden federal funds for law enforcement to work alongside federal border agents.
Cuellar said Republicans each other over budget talks, and they’re trashing the border and border security as delegations come to tour the South Texas region, especially Eagle Pass, where thousands of migrants per day have been crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico.
Cuellar points to slow-downs in migrants coming from Mexico in 2015 and 2019, both times when Mexico agreed to enhance enforcement.
This past weekend, Mexican leaders said they would begin deporting migrants who are illegally in Mexico back to their countries, and said they would step up enforcement procedures. Cuellar says they need to be pressured to carry out promises.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales is a Republican who represents Eagle Pass, which is the epicenter for illegal crossings right now on the South Texas-Mexico border.
Upwards of 8,000 migrants per day are crossing the Rio Grande from Piedras Negras, Mexico, into Eagle Pass.
On Monday, Gonzales led several fellow Republicans on a tour of the border in Eagle Pass to see firsthand the thousands of migrants, mostly Venezuelans, who have been streaming across the river.
“Now more than ever, Congress needs to pass a strong budget that puts a stop to Biden’s open-borders agenda,” U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose congressional district includes Eagle Pass and led the delegation.
“This should not be a partisan issue. My message is clear: End catch and release, stop using asylum as a hall pass, and put our Border Patrol Agents back on the frontlines,” Gonzales said.
His tour included four other congressmen from Texas and one from New York.
Texas lawmaker offers ‘out of box’ plan
Texas state Rep. Eddie Morales, D-Eagle Pass, told Border Report on Tuesday that these delegations have been parading up and down the South Texas border for three years and they “do absolutely nothing.” And he says that isn’t solving the border immigration problem, or Congress’ debate of border spending.
“We’ve had these delegations of congressmen come take pictures by their boat ramp or on the Border Patrol boats. And then they go back and do absolutely nothing. I mean, they should be having emergency committee meetings right now on passing effective immigration reform policies to address this issue,” Morales said.
He is offering what he calls an “outside-the-box solution,” whereby Texas would issue work visas to migrants and keep them in the state and track their whereabouts, and even work with Mexico to send groups of migrants to fill jobs needed here but ensure they do not go elsewhere without permission.
“We cannot continue doing the same thing and expecting different results,” he said.
Morales lives in Eagle Pass and is the city attorney. He says he doesn’t like seeing his hometown on all national newscasts cast in such a negative light.
To stop the surge, Morales is proposing the Texas Secure Our Border Migrant Processing Plan, in which the state would charge every migrant $2,000 for a “migrant processing fee” and in return, they would be allowed to work within the state at jobs pending proof of an employment sponsor. They must have no criminal history and must come through Texas land ports, not illegally through the river.
He told Border Report that he is running the idea by other Democratic lawmakers and trying to get Republicans to buy in.
He sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott last week after the mayor of Eagle Pass issued an emergency declaration due to the migrant surge. He has asked Abbott to call a special legislative session on border security and to specifically take up his plan for a vote to lawmakers.
“So that Texas can step up in the absence of Congress’ failure,” he wrote.
He added that if a fee was imposed per migrant it could bring in millions of dollars for the State of Texas and would cut into human smuggling organizations’ revenue, which typically charge thousands of dollars per person who crosses the river.
“If we do it through the dry land ports then we will take this billion dollar industry — that we have ourselves created and perpetuated for the cartels and the human smugglers — and we will take that industry away. And we will charge that $2,000 fee so that they can get a non-voting ID-card with certain conditions,” he said.
He says if approved then migrants would be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the ports of entry, and in a separate tent, the State of Texas would issue non-voting ID cards and given regulations they must follow while in the Lone Star State.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.