Immigration Reform from the GOP Side

As returning readers know, Texas Leftist is a site that makes no issue with having a Left-leaning perspective (as though the name was not sufficient enough to decipher that). But even with that acknowledgement, there are many issues that are simply too big to confine to a singular point of view. I also believe that whatever one’s personal viewpoint, it is important to continue conversation with the other side of the political spectrum.

Given all of these things, I was very pleased to be invited to a recent special event. Last month, the Houston chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans hosted an immigration forum for their members. The forum panelists were Tony Garza from the Republican Hispanic Citizens in Action, and Marcus Pena from the Federation of Hispanic Republicans. The forum’s moderator was Christopher Busby, Vice President of Houston LCR. Finally, I had an opportunity to not substitute a left-leaning narrative for the GOP’s opinion on this issue, but hear from real members of the party themselves.

Of course some very quick background… this is the Log Cabin Republicans, one of the branches of the party that believes in full LGBT equality. And this was a small event, held in conjunction with their monthly meeting. No Rick Perry, Ted Cruz or any other “big wig” in attendance here.

Nevertheless, what the group may have lacked in size, they did make up for in substance. The panelists seemed quite knowledgeable about the issues facing the Republican Party no matter what legislation was ultimately achieved. Though there was a lot of “party-line narrative”… talking about how Democrats are doing everything wrong, and don’t believe in solving the issues, a couple of truths were able to be revealed.

The first question was regarding border security…
Given all the discussion around various methods, costs, etc. to secure the border, do you feel that such provisions are feasible and a good component of the legislation?
Pena: As for my organization, we believe that our primary objective is to secure the border. And those that are here illegally… have them pay fines and back taxes for 10 years or whatever necessary. But another issue? The federal government takes forever to process immigration paperwork. They can process our income taxes quickly and passports within a month, immigration is a 10 to 15- year process. Those here illegally must go back to the line, but there’s got to be a way to speed up the process for those who have done everything right.
Garza: it’s important that we establish a path to citizenship for people that are already here, however stringent and however long it takes. The border goals are important, but we have to get this process moving. Once they become… well, not “legal” but recognized members of our communities, we can provide a way for them to stay in the country, pay taxes and not live in constant fear of being arrested and deported.
In dealing with those undocumented persons, do you support the expansion of the guest worker program? 
Pena: Guest workers have to be accounted for, and should not be allowed to overstay their visas. I believe that we should expand the guest worker program, but be more aggressive with visa monitoring and enforcement.
Garza: the guest worker program is not working now, and would be even worse if we were to expand it. In many cases, work VISAs are used as a discriminatory tool… Why is it that some people who overstay and are discovered are simply offered extensions (typically the upperclass), while others get sent to detention camps or are deported? If we expand this system, where would it lead? Privatization of VISA enforcement? Bounty hunters? It’s a bad system overall.
If CIR passes, how will it affect GOP politics? Do you think it’s going to help the Democrats, help the GOP, or would it be a wash? 
Pena: I think it would be a huge help to the Republican Party, as long as we demand border security. It sends a message to voters that Republicans actually care about their safety. We (as the GOP) spend so much time stressing national security, and we need to recognize that immigration reform is a big part of that. The United States can’t truly be secure until we account for all of the people that are here. Once that’s done, we can better protects those illegal immigrants who are here and doing nothing wrong, and separate out those that are committing crimes. In the Harris County jail right now, there are a lot of illegal immigrants, and what does ICE do with them? They pull them out, process them, and then let them back onto the streets to commit more crimes. That system isn’t making anyone safer.
Garza: I think in the long-run it will be good for the GOP, but in the short-run I’m not so sure. It all depends on how the party is able to get the message out. If we show that Republicans have a genuine interest in making the country a better safer place to live, that will be reflected by the voters. But if we let racism, discrimination and fear dominate the party’s message, it’s not going to be good for the GOP.

I still don’t quite understand this obsession with securing the border (the SOUTHERN border… as though the United States only has one). Last time I checked, we live in the 21st Century now… if people want to get to this country illegally, it’s as easy as paying someone to make them a phony passport, take a flight, go through Customs and overstay a fake VISA. We can build a fence halfway to heaven, and put 1 million guards along the Rio Grande. It’s still not going to keep determined people from getting to this country illegally. The GOP needs to save the American people some time and MONEY by dropping this border ridiculousness.

But that point aside, I was glad to see that there is some constructive dialogue going on within parts of the GOP. And perhaps that’s the most disappointing aspect. This was the Log Cabin Republicans… as an organization, still far-removed from the most influential voices of the party. Mr. Garza and Mr. Pena’s organizations probably fare better in the mainstream, but it’s pretty clear that this type of dialogue isn’t taking place on the national stage, or with the people in Congress who are making these decisions. The point Mr. Pena made about linking immigration reform with safety within the country… helping to protect undocumented people by bringing them out of the shadows… is one that I wish was being discussed more by both sides. And Mr. Garza was absolutely right that if the GOP continues to approach reform from a standpoint of racist attitudes and fear of the Hispanic Community, they will never succeed in continuing as a viable party. I know… As a Liberal, destroying the GOP is a good thing, right? Actually, what’s most important is that both sides operate from a point of logic and reasoning so that we can actually solve real problems in this country. This forum was a surprising sign of progress, but I suspect that Democrats are still much farther down field on the issue.

My sincere thanks to LCR for hosting an important discussion.

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