U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio blasts White House's vaccine mandate for Border Patrol

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click to enlarge San Antonio-area U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales does the old "grip and grin" during an October visit to a Border Patrol facility. - Twitter / @TonyGonzales4TX
Twitter / @TonyGonzales4TX
San Antonio-area U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales does the old "grip and grin" during an October visit to a Border Patrol facility.
San Antonio-area U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales penned a letter signed by 43 other congressional Republicans asking the White House to exempt Border Patrol and ICE agents from requirements that they be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Being forced to take the FDA-approved vaccine would be "the last straw" for agents already under "extraordinary amounts of mental and physical stress," Gonzales argued in a letter sent last week to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Many may resign or retire over the mandate, the freshman congressman added.

“Our men and women in the Border Patrol have worked tirelessly to manage the crisis at our southern border,” Gonzales said. “This year especially, they have been subject to extraordinary amounts of mental and physical stress. With morale at an all-time low, this mandate will serve as the last straw for agents who can easily leave the agency for other law enforcement organizations at the state and local level or retire.”

Gonzales said those who don't qualify for religious or medical exemption could be tested on a regular basis or required to wear N95 masks.

Under President Joe Biden's "Path Out of the Pandemic" executive order, all federal employees are required to receive full vaccination against the coronavirus by Nov. 22. The National Border Patrol Council union opposes the order, saying in a September website post that "when or if a legal avenue presents itself, we will file suit."

Despite the union's opposition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel have suffered a significant number of coronavirus infections. Since the start of the pandemic, 11,920 have tested positive for the virus and 51 have died, according to data from the agency cited by the online publication Border Report.

Gonzales, who represents a district stretching from San Antonio along much of the Texas-Mexico border, ran on a get-tough immigration policy. He faced heat during the 2020 campaign for a pair of TV spots showing him shaking hands with a fake U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Last month, Gonzales made headlines for saying the Border Patrol was "doing God's work" as he defended agents filmed appearing to whip the reins of their horses at Haitian migrants. Gonzales later said his statement was broadly defending the Border Patrol's work and that he'd also said no one should be mistreated.

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