McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Three congressmen from the South Texas border region all say reforming immigration should be among Joe Biden’s top priorities as the new president, but they agree that lowering COVID-19 infections must be the first issue he tackles.
During a Facebook Live event on Tuesday afternoon hosted by KVEO TV, CBS4, and with Border Report, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez, all Democrats who represent South Texas, said they were encouraged by reports that Biden is taking on an aggressive immigration reform package, which could be sent to Congress on Wednesday just hours after he is sworn in.
Vela, who recently was named by Biden to be vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he believes Biden will restore “a sense of serenity and stability to the White House.”
Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, reiterated his belief in border security but advocated that funds go to virtual security, rather than a border wall.
And he added that the militarization of the U.S. Capitol in anticipation of Wednesday’s inauguration has given the country a taste of what border residents experience on a daily basis.
“I think America is going to see what we have been fighting and that is those fighting and those barbed wires we see at the border,” Cuellar said. “I hope America sees what we’ve seen at the border and this is why President Biden is going to join us … in fighting the wall and making sure we have smart border security.”
Congress has appropriated $1.375 billion in the fiscal 2021 omnibus spending package for border barrier systems, but the congressmen all agreed that in Biden’s early days Congress needs to address how to transfer the funds from border wall contracts to other security methods, such as infrared cameras, advanced lighting and underground sensors.
Vela was critical of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, who Tuesday afternoon announced he would put a hold on the nomination of Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Vela said with Biden expected to roll out such an expansive immigration package in his first days, it will be necessary that his DHS secretary is in place. And he said Republicans are well aware of that and that it why he believes Mayorakas is being targeted.
“Every time they will target one or two cabinet positions,” Vela said. “But his position is key right now,” Vela said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.