MCALLEN, RGV – In an RGG LIVE conversation this week, U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez talked about the border wall, immigration, NAFTA, and his recent dinner with President Donald Trump.

The dinner was held on Monday June 12, with Gonzalez and Trump joined by other U.S. Representatives. Gonzalez said they discussed campaigns, infrastructure, tax reform, border security, veteran’s issues, and football.

Gonzalez called the dinner “very respectful and productive.” Gonzalez said: “Whenever you have an opportunity to talk to the President of the United States about issues that are important to your district you have a duty to do it.”

On the issue of the border wall, Gonzalez stressed the importance of the bond between the United States and Mexico. “Our relationship with Mexico is a relationship that transcends the policy of any administration and it’s a relationship that we’ve had for centuries.”

Gonzalez said building a brick wall, “sends a wrong message to our friends and allies.” He said bringing law and order to the border must be done in an intelligent way that will not misuse taxpayer’s money.

Gonzalez proposed a virtual wall built by technology. This “virtual wall” could include aerostats, which are crafts that have 40-mile vision and are able to gather intel, cameras, sensors, and improved roads along the river for Border Patrol to use.

Currently, Gonzalez said, there are 6 aerostats and 27 in storage from Afghanistan between his congressional district and that of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. Gonzalez claims that if there were 54 available aerostats a virtual wall could be protecting the region “much more effectively than the simple idea of a border wall.”

In response to those in support of a border wall, Gonzalez said: “Unfortunately, it’s more complex than that. He said the Rio Grande River already acts as a wall that just needs to be secured.
“It’s not like you get to build a wall and walk away forever and think, okay the wall is built, nobody can pass it,” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t happen that way. You would still need to do everything that we already do, so why not just do that in the more intelligent way that doesn’t squander 25 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money.”

In addition, Gonzalez spoke about the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, the recently proposed immigration bill that is based on a merit system that factors in a person’s age, education, ability to speak English, job offer salary, investments, and whether the applicant has won a Nobel Prize, major international award, or Olympic medal in the past eight years.

Gonzalez called it, “a little bit of a racist act,” and commented that vetting immigrants based on their ability to speak English “has never been the bar for immigrating people into the United States.” Gonzalez said there are laws in the U.S. against age discrimination but yet, “we want to do it as a part of an immigration policy.”

However, Gonzalez does find parts of the RAISE Act worthy of consideration, such as vetting people for work skills that the U.S. could use.

Those skills could include those of an engineer, a doctor, or some other specialty to skills that include common labor as according to Gonzalez. “Folks who are harvesting produce for the American table many times are immigrants and we need to be open about that.”

“I think you need to have folks on both sides of the aisle who really know the subject to sit and have a conversation together,” Gonzalez said, when discussing the RAISE Act.

Also, relating to the current Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act issue, Gonzalez said: “We’re going to keep working for it and fighting for them.” He said DREAMERS came to the U.S. without their “personal decision being part of it,” as they came here as young children and with that in mind this is the “only county they know and love.”

When asked about current renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Gonzalez said NAFTA has been a great deal for the country, the State of Texas, and especially South Texas. He called it an excellent trading bloc and one that should be preserved.

Yet, Gonzalez made the point that NAFTA is a 23-year-old agreement. He said a lot has changed since it started, including the advance of the Internet. Thus, he said, goods and services are crossing across the border through technology faster than ever before, so there are parts of NAFTA that could be improved.

“I believe we should be open to the global economy and we shouldn’t block ourselves,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he will be in his district for the rest of August and would welcome a visit to his office by anyone who need his help.

RGG LIVE: Congressman Vicente Gonzalez discusses veterans issues, plus healthcare, immigration and border security.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Tuesday, August 8, 2017