GOP Congressman Criticizes McCarthy for ‘Demonizing’ Undocumented Immigrants

Rep. Tony Gonzales - Credit: CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Rep. Tony Gonzales - Credit: CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) was openly critical of his own party’s leadership for portraying undocumented immigrants as the enemy. Appearing on Face the Nation, the congressman accused House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of “demonizing” those who enter the country without proper documentation.

“You’ve got… Kevin McCarthy on one side that is demonizing those that come over illegally,” Gonzales told host Margaret Brennan on Sunday. But he criticized Democrats as well, saying, “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.”

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Gonzales, whose district covers a significant portion of the border between the U.S. and Mexico, has previously been openly critical of McCarthy and the party’s approach to immigration. “Bring unchristian anti-immigrant bills to the floor and I am a NO on the debt ceiling,” Gonzales wrote on Twitter late last month.

With the end of the pandemic-era health restrictions — including Title 42, which allowed authorities to turn away migrants at the border, including those seeking asylum — the government will instead follow Title 8, a decades-old policy that brings what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described as “more severe” consequences for undocumented migrants. The end of Title 42 also raises concerns that a surge of immigrants will attempt to enter the United States from the global South.

Gonzales recently visited the border alongside McCarthy where he captured videos depicting the crowded and inhumane conditions in immigration facilities.

“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,” Gonzales said. “So on Friday I went to El Paso, I visited the central processing center. You’re seeing on these videos, this is what ‘not that bad’ looks like. In the El Paso sector there are over 6,000 people in custody. This particular facility is meant to house 1,000 people; it’s housing 3,000.”

Rooms in the facility are at more than 450 percent capacity, he added. “We can’t allow ‘not that bad’ to be the normal,” Gonzales said. “Just this week there was a migrant child that died in HHS custody. That’s only the second time in history.”

On Friday, the White House confirmed that 17-year-old Honduran Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoz died in a shelter in Safety Harbor, Fla. According to HHS, a medical examiner’s investigation is underway. There were 8,672 children in HHS custody as of Friday.

The congressman also called out the Biden administration for extremely long wait times for immigration hearings. “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,” Gonzales said. “I mean, that’s eight years from now. The president can surge, instead of surging 1,500 troops, surge immigration judges.”

The attempted “demonization” of undocumented immigrants that Gonzales called out is common in the GOP and has only heightened xenophobic sentiment in the country as the party attempts to link immigration with violent crime, which makes Gonzales a rare standout.

But immigration isn’t the only issue where the congressman breaks with his party’s rank-and-file. Gonzales was censured by the Republican Party of Texas last month over his votes supporting a bipartisan gun law and protections for same-sex marriage in addition to his refusal to support a GOP border security bill.

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