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AUSTIN, Texas — Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican who represents a Texas district that stretches more than 800 miles along the border, warned that the wave of immigrants crossing into the United States illegally will not stop until Congress take action.
“Today it’s Del Rio, Eagle Pass and El Paso. Tomorrow, it’s your city, whether it’s Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Florida,” Gonzales told Fox News Digital on Saturday. “This is spreading. There is no end in sight.”
There have been more than two million encounters with migrants this fiscal year, including more than 203,000 last month.
House Republicans unveiled their “Engage with America” agenda this week, calling for ending catch-and-release loopholes, requiring proof of legal status for a job, and increasing funding for infrastructure and technology. advanced on the border.
Autonomous surveillance towers are a key piece of technology that Congress should fund for the Border Patrol, Gonzales said.
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The towers, which can be erected in a few hours and reach 33 feet in height, scan the surrounding area and use artificial intelligence to detect both the migrants and the human traffickers who smuggle them.
“Every border sector is asking for more of these,” Gonzales said. “What you don’t hear much about, the ‘escapees,’ are people that we know entered the country illegally, but we don’t know where they went. These towers would help with that. We could identify these ‘escapes.'”
Officials told Fox News in July that Border Patrol estimates there have been more than half a million migrants who have been spotted by cameras and other towers but have missed agents this fiscal year.
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The Biden administration has defended itself against criticism over its handling of the migration crisis, saying it is working to rebuild legal asylum pathways and pointing to “root causes” of migration patterns in Central American countries, such as violence and climate change.
Gonzales, a Navy veteran who was elected in 2020 to Texas’s 23rd congressional district, broke with House Republicans to pass the bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
The bill, spearheaded by fellow Texas Senator John Cornyn, also a Republican, improves background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21, encourages states to create red flag laws and provides funding for a variety of mental health services.
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The Gonzales district includes Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were killed at a primary school in May.
“Uvalde was the worst school shooting in Texas history and I don’t wish this on any community,” Gonzales said.
“After that horrible incident, countless people came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Tony, we have to do something,'” he continued. “We worked very hard on that legislation to make sure it didn’t infringe on people’s constitutional rights, that’s important. [And] that he had due process, equally important. And, ultimately, it was the largest investment in mental health in our nation’s history.”