GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales says Biden barred him from ‘Potemkin Village’ border tour

MEXICO CITY — Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents most of the Texas border with Mexico, accused the White House on Monday of blocking him from attending President Biden’s Sunday border trip, as critics said Biden received a disinfected “Potemkin Village” tour.

“They told me I couldn’t attend. The president essentially lied to my face,” Gonzales told Fox & Friends.

Biden walked a section of the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border with no “evidence of migrants” before arriving at the “largely deserted” El Paso County Migrant Services Center, according to the traveling press pool.

The sleepy scene surprised journalists after El Paso’s Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser declared a state of emergency Dec. 17 because crowds of destitute migrants slept on sidewalks.

The White House said “space restrictions” prevented Gonzales from attending the tour.

“As is often the case with presidential trips, we received multiple requests from lawmakers to accompany the President on this trip, and due to space constraints, we were unable to accommodate all requests from Republicans and Democrats,” a White House official told The Post. “Our legislative affairs team has been and will continue to be in close contact with these lawmakers.”

President Biden visited the US-Mexico border near El Paso on Sunday.
President Biden visited the US-Mexico border near El Paso on Sunday.
AFP via Getty Images

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confronted Biden on the airport tarmac as he landed on Sunday and handed him a letter that said: “The city you are visiting has been cleansed of the migrant camps that the overran downtown El Paso because your government wants to protect you from the chaos that Texans experience every day.”

Abbott’s letter also states, “This mess is a direct result of your failure to enforce the immigration laws passed by Congress.”

Biden made his first border trip as president en route to Mexico City to attend the summit of North American leaders Monday and Tuesday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

That's what the White House said "space restrictions" meant Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) couldn't compete in the frontier tour.
The White House said “space restrictions” meant Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) could not participate in the border tour.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

Biden conducted a record nearly 2.4 million illegal cross-border arrests in fiscal 2022, which ended Sept. 30, up from 1.7 million in fiscal 2021, fewer than 500,000 in 2020 and nearly 1 million in 2019.

Center Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a smaller border section further from El Paso, was allowed to participate in the trip, as were Rep. Vicente González (D-Texas), whose district borders the Gulf of Mexico, and Veronica Escobar ( D-Texas) representing actual El Paso.

The only other Border Texas Legislature not allowed to join was Rep. Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas), though Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM), who represents an area near El Paso, did as well not allowed to be part of the tour.

Biden made the first border trip of his presidency when he traveled to Mexico City.
Biden made the first border trip of his presidency when he traveled to Mexico City.
AFP via Getty Images

The cleaned up area drew criticism and references to the famous false scenery created by Russian official Grigory Potemkin in the late 17th century to impress Catherine the Great during a tour of Ukraine.

“POTUS visit to a Potemkin border”, tweeted Retired diplomat Alberto Miguel Fernandez.

“Per Mayor of El Paso, ‘Hundreds [of migrants are] sleeping on the street.’ Will Biden see these camps on his border visit? no He will see a Potemkin Village after temporarily clearing them. His admin cares more about looks than reality.” wrote Tommy Pigott, Republican National Committee official.

Former Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) tweeted “before” and “after” photos showing the impact of the El Paso cleanup.

“This is El Paso before Biden’s visit and after his announcement that he was coming to El Paso. We needed him to see what his policies have done to our border towns, and South Texas is still awaiting his visit to the border.” Flores wrote.

Migrants were crossing the border when Biden visited them. In the 24 hours that covered the president’s layover, Fox News reported as much 518 people were arrested in the El Paso area for illegally crossing the border.