Texas rep wants to force sanctuary cities to cooperate with ICE, urges Biden to take ‘aggressive action’

FIRST ON FOX: Texas Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales wants to ramp up pressure on "sanctuary" jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in deporting illegal immigrants – and he is urging the Biden administration to take "aggressive action" to help.

Gonzales, in an interview with Fox News Digital, highlighted the emergence of Tren De Aragua, a violent Venezuelan street gang that federal authorities have warned has expanded into other countries and is trying to establish itself in the U.S. The Texas congressman called it "essentially the new MS-13."

"They’re going to be entrenched in all our cities, and so it doesn't make sense to me, if you're a sanctuary city, that you should not be working with law enforcement to keep your city safe. That's what it boils down to – to keep your city safe," Gonzales said. 


"Sanctuary" jurisdictions are those that, as a policy, do not honor ICE detainers. When ICE believes a removable illegal immigrant has been arrested on criminal charges, it will lodge a detainer – a request that they be notified before the immigrant is released from custody and to keep them in custody until ICE can take custody of them. Proponents of sanctuary policies argue that enforcing federal law is not the responsibility of local jurisdictions and that working with ICE has a chilling effect on relations between people seeking asylum and members of the local community.

But such policies have recently been brought under heightened scrutiny after a number of high-profile incidents where jurisdictions ignored ICE detainers and released illegal immigrants, only for them to subsequently commit serious crimes. Gonzales, who recently spoke to acting ICE Director Patrick Lechleitner, sits on the House Appropriations Committee and said his team is working on items that can empower ICE and also limit sanctuary cities.

"If you really want to move the needle, put money behind it," he said. "Appropriations is where you do that. So that is one of the things that our team is looking at.

"I want to empower ICE to go out there and catch these bad actors," he said. "This is no longer a partisan issue. I think there's a lot of fertile ground for you to get people to agree on it."

Along with more funding for ICE, Gonzales said he was tying federal grants to cooperation with ICE – something the Trump administration implemented with certain DOJ grants. However, he also floated something even stronger – a mandate for that cooperation with ICE.


"I think one of the things that we can solve is getting these sanctuary cities to not be an option, that they work with federal agencies, for there to be a mandate," he said. "Like, ‘Here's the deal. You will work with federal agencies to… tackle these bad actors and keep your city safe.’"

In the meantime, Gonzales is leading a letter to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. That letter, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News Digital, carries the signatures of nearly two dozen Republicans and says sanctuary policies pose a "direct threat" to public safety.


"We are asking you to take aggressive action to end the abuse of our nation’s border laws and discourage sanctuary cities from providing safe harbor to violent criminals who have entered our country illegally," it reads.

While Republicans and the administration have been at loggerheads over immigration policy, there may be some common ground. 

Lechleitner recently told Fox News that such jurisdictions are "inherently more unsafe."

"It is a concern, and I’m very baffled by it," he said.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told mayors in 2022 that he would be seeking to persuade leaders to change their policies.

"We are not engaged in indiscriminate enforcement, but we are focused on making our communities safe and allowing those who have been contributors to it and productive members of it, to allow them to continue in their contributions and their productivity," he told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2022.

"And so, I will be coming to you and asking you to reconsider your position of non-cooperation and see how we can work together."

The White House, in a statement to Fox News Digital last month, said it welcomes local law enforcement cooperation "in apprehending and removing individuals who pose a risk to national security or public safety."

"When a local jurisdiction has information about an individual who could pose a threat to public safety, we want them to share that information with ICE," a spokesperson said.

The Republican lawmakers cited that statement as they continue to urge the administration to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions.

"We urge you to act on these demands and ensure that sanctuary cities cooperate – our national security depends on it," the letter reads. Fox reached out to the White House and DHS for comment regarding the letter but did not hear back at press time. 

Gonzales also noted that any moves to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions could be helpful to a future Trump administration.

He said: "Even though he's going to implement all these new policies, there needs to be a buildup ahead of time... And I think there's an opportunity here to do that through the appropriations process by punishing those sanctuary cities that aren’t cooperating and rewarding ICE that is actually… getting back to doing their job."