Don’t Be Fooled by Tony Gonzales’ Shift on Immigration


by Chris Russo President, Texans for Strong Borders

Rep. Tony Gonzales tours the Texas Border with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

As the campaign trail heats up in Texas’ largest congressional district, citizens are engaged on the most pressing issue in the region, and indeed, in the country: the security of our southern border. Stretching from San Antonio to El Paso and including border hotspots such as Eagle Pass and Del Rio, Texas’ 23rd Congressional District is currently represented by Tony Gonzales, who won a narrow Republican primary election over grassroots pick Raul Reyes by just 45 votes in 2020.

Soon after border crisis began following President Biden’s inauguration in January 2021, Gonzales became notable for distancing himself from the so-called “hardline” immigration stance of his Republican colleagues. Gonzales has been a close ally of a bipartisan group of Senators in pushing for a so-called “Grand Bargain” exchanging amnesty for border security, and was one of the first Republican House members to support a framework that would have included granting amnesty to DACA recipients. He then continued to criticize the Republican response to the invasion at the border, calling Congressman Chip Roy’s H.R. 29 (a measure supported by every other Republican in the Texas congressional delegation) “unchristian” because it mandated detention of those seeking asylum until their cases could be adjudicated (which is provided for under existing law).

In March of 2023, Gonzales’ opposition to this legislation was one of the reasons cited for his historic censure by the Republican Party of Texas. Despite a defiant response on Twitter, Gonzales seemed to change his tone on border security, going from one of the leading critics to a cheerleader for H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which passed the House last May but has stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Advocates of border security, however, should be hesitant to chalk up this sudden shift to a legitimate change of heart upon seeing millions of illegal aliens stream across the Rio Grande and subsequently be released into the interior of the United States. Indeed, in July Gonzales introduced the HIRE Act along with a slew of moderate Republicans and Democrats. In the midst of the most extreme illegal immigration crisis our nation has ever faced, it would have blown the doors open for “temporary” work visas by waiving in-person interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for renewals and extending these visa petitions’ period of validity to up to 3 years.

At Texans for Strong Borders, we have repeatedly called out Tony Gonzales for his weak stances on both illegal and legal immigration. Voters in the 23rd Congressional District deserve a candidate who understands the dire situation at our border and is willing to stop illegal crossings and reform our immigration system to put Americans first. This is especially true given the new electoral realities where the district went from an R +1 district to an R +5 district thanks to shifting electoral patterns in the border region and redistricting following the 2020 U.S. Census.

Luckily, voters in the district have the opportunity to hold Rep. Gonzales accountable in March. His censure and stance as a known moderate have garnered four Republican challengers: Julie Clark, Brandon Herrera, Victor Avila, and Frank Lopez, Jr.

Julie Clark, a rancher residing in Yancey, has been a tireless advocate for Border Security, and I personally witnessed her working to advance border security legislation in the Texas Capitol during the 88th legislative session alongside other conservative leaders. She was the very first congressional candidate to sign our Strong Borders Policy pledge.

Brandon Herrera is a popular YouTube content creator, firearms manufacturer, 2nd Amendment activist who has repeatedly called Tony Gonzales an “Open Borders” advocate. Although he is a political newcomer, his policy positions on border security are in line with our key priorities.

Victor Avila is a retired special advisory agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and notably survived a cartel attack in Mexico in 2011. I had the pleasure of speaking with him after a speaking at a meeting of the El Paso Area Republican Women in December, and he was very critical of Gonzales’ stance on the border.

Frank Lopez, Jr. is a retired Border Patrol agent and longtime political activist. He served as campaign manager for Raul Reyes during his primary challenge of Gonzales in 2020 and is a former State Republican Executive Committee Member from SD-19.

With a plethora of options, voters concerned with Gonzales’ lackluster record on the border (not to mention a host of other conservative priorities on which I will decline to opine here) will need to turn out in strong numbers, as a successful primary challenge of a sitting Congressman is no easy feat. The same political establishment that has failed to secure our border is squarely in Gonzales’ corner, with the National Republican Congressional Committee pledging to support his reelection campaign immediately after his RPT censure and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley calling him the “Border King” during a joint visit to Eagle Pass.

Nonetheless, with the invasion at the Texas Border at the forefront of the national spotlight, the opportunity for change is in reach. Despite his reluctant support for the Secure the Border Act, his record is crystal clear: soft on illegal immigration and strongly in favor of expanding visas for foreign workers.

We need political leaders who refuse to compromise on our nation’s sovereignty and security. We need leaders who will put Americans first. And on March 5th, Republican primary voters can do just that.

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