Bipartisan Border Caucus Pitches High-Tech Fix to Fight Illegal Immigration

A bipartisan coalition of U.S. House representatives announced Friday that Congress will soon have its first caucus designed to promote bipartisan technological solutions in order to stem the surge of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), along with Appropriations Committee members Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), aim to make the border a political unifier with the introduction of the Border Security Technology Caucus.

Tony Gonzales
Republican Representative Tony Gonzales (pictured), who represents Texas' 23rd district, is a founder of the Border Security Technology Caucus. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives

The Republican Representative Gonzales said that by adding new technology border authorities would be able to more effectively allocate their resources, utilizing systems such as Autonomous Surveillance Towers that enable detection of migrant traffic without agents having to being present.

"I'm a cryptologist by trade, a cyber guy, and in the cyber realm, you get obsolete very fast," the Republican Representative Gonzales told Newsweek. "It's like the next iPhone that's coming out, and you got to stay on top of what the latest technology is."

"Border patrol agents are asking for this," he added, "and they're pushing hard."

He said the morale of agents is low, because as drug cartels have upped their technology, the government agencies charged with fighting them have fallen behind. He told Newsweek that agents have seen small drones fly across the border and drop illegal drugs, going back and forth "all day long." He said the agents have no tools at their disposal to combat this technology.

The Democratic Representative Gonzalez said he met with researchers with Massachusetts Institute of Technology who showed him a low-cost unmanned aerostat, similar to a blimp, that can fly at high levels to remotely monitor the border.

Vicente Gonzalez
Democratic Representative Vicente Gonzalez, who represents Texas' 15th district is a founder of the Border Security Technology Caucus. Here, he poses for a headshot. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives

"I had many conversations with President Trump about using cutting-edge technology on our border, and I used to use the word of having a 'virtual wall' through cutting-edge technology," the Democratic Representative Gonzalez told Newsweek.

I'm for secure borders and I'm for immigration," he added, "and I think that the best way to do it is through cutting-edge technology that we already have."

"I think everyone, all of us, regardless of what party we're in, want America to be safe," the Republican Representative Gonzales told Newsweek. "This caucus organizes that, and it gives a platform where members can come together and have a more defined kind of platform going forward."

His Democratic colleague supports that approach.

"The fact is, we just need to control the border the way we have for generations now and keep it safe and have an orderly process for folks who want to come across," the Representative Gonzalez told Newsweek.

"I think that this caucus will be able to see technological ideas and advances that now exist that we can present to the appropriate committees on this issue," he added, "and do it in a bipartisan way."

By combatting drug smuggling technologies and introducing equipment that makes it easier to detect people being smuggling across the border, the two lawmakers said that America can better crack down on cartel influence.

In 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported over 2 million encounters with migrants, and seized more than 865,000 pounds of illegal drugs. Both Republican Gonzales and Democrat Gonzalez said that the surge has been harmful to their districts, saying that their areas have been overwhelmed by crossers, straining the capabilities of local law enforcement.

MEXICO-US-BORDER-MIGRATION
A young man helps another man to climb metal wall that divides the border between Mexico and the United States to cross illegally to Sunland Park, from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on April 6, 2018. Both Gonzales and Gonzalez prefer a high-tech solution to border security over a physical wall. Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The Democratic Representative Gonzalez noted that cartels have earned billions trafficking migrants across the border. Through using identification tech to crackdown on these key revenue stream, the cartels could see a major dent in an operation that allows them to wreak political and operational havoc on the southwest border.

While technology could be the future of bipartisanship at the border, both Gonzalez and Gonzales equally stressed the importance of passing immigration reform. The Central American economy has yet to fully recover from COVID-19, the World Bank writes.

Meanwhile, America needs workers. The two border representatives said opening up legal immigration channels could help address these two issues while also diminishing the number of illegal crossings.

"If we pass meaningful immigration reform, it would impact the migration on our southern border," the Democratic Representative Gonzalez told Newsweek.

"Meaning if we just had a robust guest worker program," he added, "where people can apply to come in as workers from consulates and embassies around the world, that policy alone would take a huge amount of pressure off our southern border."

His Republican colleague agrees.

"I think there's an appetite from the legal immigration standpoint," Representative Gonzales said. "You see the shortages in labor, you see the dangerous trek that a lot of these folks make just for a better life."

"I think there's an appetite there," he added. "Like many things in Washington, ultimately, it has the best chance of success if there's a bipartisan solution to it."

Newsweek contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection for comment, but they did not respond in time for publication.