by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Immigration was a central topic in a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 19 with Republican Congressman Byron Donalds (FL-19), as he took questions from the audience at the Sanibel Community House.
Migrants attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico boarder at the highest level in two decades as the U.S. prepares for even larger numbers with the expected lifting of a pandemic-era order that turned away asylum seekers.
The number of migrant encounters by Customs and Border Protection have gone up nearly every month since President Joe Biden took office, and political opponents are pointing to the increase as evidence this administration is weaker on border security than its predecessor.
The Biden administration has said it intends to end the use of Title 42, a little-used public health authority enacted in March 2020 by the previous administration to quickly expel nearly anyone encountered along the Southwest border.
Several moderate Democrats have joined Republican leaders to call for an extension of Title 42 and warned the Biden administration is unprepared for asylum restrictions to be lifted.
Donalds described Biden’s view of asylum as “radical” and said the administration is speeding up the asylum process instead of securing the border. He said the immigration process should be orderly and better rules put in place.
Donalds addressed the flow of illegal drugs, especially illicit fentanyl, also crossing the southern border, and the surge is adding to Biden’s border crisis. Customs and Border Protection has seized 5,300 pounds of fentanyl so far in FY22.
The Congressman was asked about congressional term limits, which he said are necessary. There is no pressure on officials to get things done without term limits, he said. “There is no urgency in Congress.”
Rising home insurance costs, the resdistricting map and mail-in ballots were other question topics Donalds addressed. He said Florida has the best mail-in ballot laws in the country. They can work, he said, with order and rules. The key is how they are received by voters.
“They must be requested,” he said. “Unsolicited mail-in ballots is a recipe for disaster.”
He was also asked about the environment, from climate change to water quality. He said healthy water is the foundation of the state’s economy, as well as ecology. “We need a healthy water system overall,” he said. “It’s essential as Florida’s population grows.”
But of all the issues facing citizens and the country, Donalds said the existential threat to our republic is losing the appreciation for disagreements. “A republic requires robust debate of all sides,” he said. “There has to be an appreciation for debate as long as we move forward together.”
Donalds was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016 and represented Hendry County and east Collier County. He has been serving as the U.S. representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district since 2021. He lives in Naples with his wife and three sons.