MCALLEN, Texas – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez used a recent appearance on Meet the Press to promote his Safe Zones Act of 2022.

Moderator Chuck Todd invited the McAllen Democrat onto the show to discuss possible changes to the asylum law. He asked Gonzalez if he supported the idea of raising the bar on asylum so that only migrants who might be tortured if they return to their homeland would be able to apply to stay in the United States.

“Well, I’m going to tell you that our asylum laws are antiquated, and they are being abused. So the vast, vast majority of people who come to our southern border are escaping poverty and not necessarily violence,” Gonzalez said.

He then pivoted to legislation he has proposed, namely the Safe Zones Act. After he had finished explaining how it would work, Todd said it seemed “a very reasonable idea.”

Todd said: “Congressman, you’re speaking very rationally and logically. That usually doesn’t go down well in Washington.”

Gonzalez explained his legislation this way: “I have proposed a something called the Safe Zone Act, which creates a zone on the border of Guatemala and Mexico, kind of like the green zone we had in Iraq, if you will. It would allow asylum seekers to show up and be able to be processed at that juncture,” Gonzalez explained.

Having asylum seekers from Central America apply at the Guatemala-Mexico border would relieve pressure at the U.S.-Mexico border, Gonzalez predicted.  

“(It would) allow the Border Patrol and law enforcement to do the job that they’ve been trained and hired to do,” Gonzalez said. “And it would also remove the cartel element that’s charging migrants $6,000 to $8,000 a head to get to our southern border.”

Gonzalez did say the current asylum laws were “antiquated.” He also told Todd that he supported keeping Title 42, which keeps asylum seekers that show up on the southern border in Mexico.

Todd asked Gonzalez if he had support for his Safe Zones Act in Mexico and Guatemala. Gonzalez said the Guatemala president is supportive. 

Gonzalez said he has also pitched his legislation to the Biden Administration. He said he did the same to President Trump.

“I brought it back to the President (Trump) and there was interest at the White House at the time. But then COVID hit globally and they triggered Title 42. And that really just put a bandaid on the problem. Until we have long term infrastructure further away from our border we’re going to always be dealing with these situations.”

Gonzalez pointed out that he is from the border.

“I understand what’s happening on the border. I understand the abuse that migrants go through to get to our southern border and it’s also enriching the cartels. We need to have a proposal, a plan. But but we have to be honest with ourselves. The fact is, asylum laws that we have now are antiquated and are being abused. People are escaping poverty and are showing up to our border.”

Asked if living in poverty in one’s homeland should be a reason to secure asylum in the United States, Gonzalez said: “I don’t believe so. I think we should help our enemies around the world and help countries. I mean, there’s a lot of poverty around the world and we can’t cure every single problem for everyone in every country. But I think more could be done for our neighboring countries like Central America. I think we should be addressing root causes and creating and making investments that create conditions for people to stay in their native country.”

Gonzalez said that, thus far, his bill is the only one he has seen that “makes sense.” He said it is not a Democrat plan or a Republican plan. “It’s an American plan to resolve the problems that we have on our southern border.”

Todd asked Gonzalez what he thought about Republicans blaming Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for problems at the southern border. 

“We can’t just target him for being the reason. I think Republicans use that as a distraction for not having a plan,” Gonzalez answered. 

“The plan that I have proposed is the only plan that I’ve actually seen on Capitol Hill that really addresses the asylum seeking problem that we have on our on our southern border. And I haven’t seen one single proposal come out of the Republican side.

“And, I’ll be clear about this. When Trump was in office Democrats would go down to my border and point fingers at President Trump. Now, with Biden I have a slew of Republicans going down there pointing the finger at Biden. Everybody uses the border as a political backdrop, regardless of what side is in power. What we need to do is come together as a country and come up with a proposal that will have a long term solution to our southern border.”

Before his appearance on Meet the Press, Congressman Gonzalez issued a news release about the Safe Zones Act of 2022. It said the legislation seeks to allow migrants to seek asylum in designated “safe zones” located in their home countries.   

“America is a haven for those looking to escape poverty, violence, and religious or political persecution,” Gonzalez stated, in the news release. “It is time we address our flawed immigration process and ensure the safety of migrants and the security of our country.”

Gonzalez said he was proud to introduce legislation that allows individuals to apply for asylum in their home country. He said it breaks the “cycle of dependence on human traffickers and the deadly risk of trekking thousands of miles over harsh terrain.”

Gonzalez said: “The Safe Zones Act provides much needed relief to our border communities and gives a humane path to asylum seekers, removing their reliance on cartels for passage to our southern border. The Safe Zones Act allows people to apply for asylum legally and securely in a process that alleviates pressure on our Border Patrol personnel, border communities, and our immigration courts. The scenes we have witnessed from migrants dying in tractor-trailers to drowning in the Rio Grande are nothing short of horrific and heartbreaking. It is time we adequately address immigration reform with common-sense, bipartisan measures that provide actual results.”

The news release urged Gonzalez’s colleagues to join him in sending his bill to President Biden’s desk for signature. “Seeking a better life in the United States should not be a death sentence for families. It is time we change the system for the better.” 

The Safe Zones Act of 2022

• Broadens the field of people who can conduct credible fear analysis beyond immigration officers to include immigration officers and trained and qualified staff as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. 

• Sustains the standard for credible fear as provided by Immigration and Nationality Act. 

• Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Section 208 reaffirmed as bars to asylum. 

• Streamlines the entire asylum claim process. After an individual passes the initial credible fear screening within a designated Safe Zone, they will have their asylum claim reviewed by an immigration judge within 90 days. 

It also establishes “Safe Zones.”

• Safe Zones are designated by the Secretary of State under section 207(g) to accept and process applications for refugee admissions to the United States. 

• Safe Zones may include embassies, consulates, other diplomatic facilities, or other facilities as determined to be appropriate by the Secretary of State. 

The bill also ensures additional personnel and the service of “Safe Zones.”

• One year after the date of enactment of this Act, U.S Customs and Border Protection will hire and train new Border Patrol agents as determined necessary by the Secretary of Homeland Security. 

• No later than 6 months after the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall hire 20 immigration judges and all appropriate support staff to carry out this Act. 

• Ensures that the Safe Zones provide humane conditions and are safe and secure. 

• Mandates that migrants are provided with adequate security to ensure safe zone is fortified from potential danger, temporary housing for migrants while their case is being adjudicated, adequate meals, access to medical care, social workers, the Legal Orientation Program and other services. 

• Authorizes $40,000,000 to be appropriated each fiscal year to carry out this section. 

Editor’s Note: Click here to watch Congressman Gonzalez on Meet the Press.

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