Tag Archives: CIR

The Immigration Fight: Protesting Children??

For those that were around an American television in the year 2000, it’s quite possible you remember the name Elian Gonzalez… a little boy from Cuba that was the center of a massive international custody fight.  He originally came to the US by boat and his mother actually died en route to get to Florida.  When the six year-old Elian arrived here, he was greeted by a group of angry protesters that told him to turn around and go back to where he came from.

If you remember the story, you’ll also remember that the above is incorrect.  Because Elian was from Cuba (and yes, in part because his story made national news), he was not treated the way that so many undocumented people entering the United States have been treated.  Instead, the United States treated him as a refugee from the malicious Cuban government, and he was taken to family members in Florida.  Elian resided in the country all the way through a vicious court battle which eventually had him sent back to his native land (In case you’re curious, Elian Gonzalez is now all grown up and a faithful devotee of Fidel Castro).

This illustrates one sad truth of the United States immigration system… it’s completely unfair.  Elian, like many undocumented Cubans that have ventured to this country before him, was deemed a refugee thanks to the shaky relations between the two governments.  He was not locked away in a holding cell, and he was not met by screams from protesters.    But for the undocumented children on U.S. soil today, that’s exactly what they have faced.  As Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said this weekend, we should not be berating people simply trying to flee from danger.  Here’s more from the Houston Chronicle

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee on Sunday called upon charitable and faith organizations to help the tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children who are pouring across the Texas border.

The Houston Democrat said a federal emergency should be declared to handle what she called a humanitarian crisis.

“These unaccompanied children are not America’s enemy,” said Jackson Lee, who spent three days touring detention centers turned into makeshift shelters that are overflowing with children in the Rio Grande Valley.


“It would not be humane to put these children on planes and buses to ship them back. They could be killed by the cartels and gangs at home. They are not a security threat to us,” Jackson Lee said. “What mother would not send their children here if they were told they had to join the gang or be shot to death?”

The congresswoman told of seeing “frightened children who just want to be comforted” at the shelters, stressing America has always received those who fled persecution.

Her comments come against a backdrop of rising tension this week in places like Murrieta, Calif., where protesters turned away three busloads of immigrants that rolled into their town. Efforts to set up a detention center there were thwarted, and the undocumented immigrants were relocated to San Diego.

As Jackson Lee states, this is a humanitarian crisis, not a national security threat.  Many of these children and families are fleeing unspeakable crimes in their homeland, including massive gang violence, murder and rape.

In a recent article, Diane Washington Valdez of the El Paso Times reported just how pervasive child sex trafficking is in the neighboring city of Juarez, Mexico…

Juárez is one of the Mexican cities where child-sex tourism persists, according to a U.S. State Department report on international human trafficking released Friday in Washington, D.C.

“Child sex tourism persists in Mexico, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, and in northern border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez,” the report said. “Many child sex tourists are from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, though some are Mexican citizens.”

John Martin, director of Paso Del Norte Center of Hope, which assists human and sex-trafficking victims, said he’s learned from researchers that Anapra is one of four areas in the Juárez region where sex with children is available.

“Reportedly, people can get sex with a child for $5,” Martin said.

For all of those angry protesters demanding children go back to where they came from, are they also ok with them being sold into slavery or used as pawns for a gangland war? Do they want them sent back, even if it means a death sentence??

To those that complain about how the United States cannot afford to care for people fleeing imminent danger, they should also be asking how we can afford tax give-aways to massive corporations, or how we can afford to spend trillions of dollars nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Protecting the lives of people within our borders, documented or not, should be a priority over trying to “force Americanization” of places not even in the same hemisphere.

And therein lies another inherent problem with the immigration fight… some that are against comprehensive immigration reform don’t feel that certain lives warrant the same need for protection as others.   Here’s what Bud Kennedy of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram had to say regarding a right-wing Facebook page…

 if you read the “Protect” delegates’ convention Facebook page, they reprinted this Thursday from a California restrictionist group protesting at Murrieta, Calif.:

“Americans are not breeding while ‘the bronze master race is.’ … We will die out and they will win.”

There you have it. A major Texas Republican faction that just successfully rewrote the platform is publishing warnings about Central American child detainees arriving as part of an “agenda” for a “bronze master race.”

It’s not about legal or illegal.  It’s about bronze.

The Protect page has 932 followers, including several Tarrant County Republican precinct chairs and party officers. It does not identify an author, editor or administrator.

According to the Protect Texas page, at least some of those protesting the children in Murrieta are concerned about much more than just what papers they possess.  Sounds familiar to a previous post discussing the unspoken fears that many on the right have about America’s future. At least they used to be unspoken.

No matter what one’s political views, we should all feel ashamed that innocent children would be treated with such disdain.  Whether they have 50 press cameras on them like Elian or zero, these children are in need right now, and the least we can do is help them.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/07/05/5950561/on-child-bashing-republican-facebook.html?storylink=addthis#.U7hy2dxjdW4.twitter&rh=1#storylink=cpy



(photo credit:  KTLA)

Comprehensive Immigration Reform ‘Won’t’ Pass The House

The curious case of the GOP versus Comprehensive Immigration Reform continues.

It appears that the latest plan that Republicans have cooked up to stall Immigration Reform is nothing more than an old stand-by… blame President Obama.

Here’s more from the Washington Post…

Republicans are starting to lay the blame on President Barack Obama if an overhaul of the nation’s broken immigration system fails to become law.

The GOP’s emerging plan on immigration is to criticize Obama as an untrustworthy leader and his administration as an unreliable enforcer of any laws that might be passed. Perhaps realizing the odds of finding a consensus on immigration are long, the Republicans have started telling voters that if the GOP-led House doesn’t take action this election year, it is Obama’s fault.

“If the president had been serious about this the last five years, we’d be further along in this discussion,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, said Sunday.

I suppose making CIR a top priority of his administration during virtually every year of his Presidency isn’t getting serious enough? And not to mention that the only chamber to have done anything substantive at this point is the Democratically-controlled Senate, which passed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation last year. Let’s also not forget that Obama is apparently much more serious on the issue than President George W. Bush. During the Bush administration, neither House of Congress got ANYTHING advanced on immigration. Make no mistake, the GOP is running plays from a tried and true playbook right now… desperately trying to sound serious about immigration reform just long enough to get through the 2014 elections. That’s the only reason for all of the caution and careful change in tone for 2014.

But on Wednesday’s Houston Matters with host Craig Cohen, Texas Congressman Kevin Brady decided to throw even that caution to the wind, and out the window. Here was the exchange from last week…

Craig Cohen: “Another topic of significance to Greater Houston that the President raised last night was immigration. What would it take to see comprehensive immigration reform pass through the House?”

Congressman Brady: “You know… it won’t. I think the House has learned from some of the massive bills, such as the Affordable Care Act, that comprehensive efforts are normally very sloppy, and we learn later just what the consequences of them are. The House is going to take a step-by-step approach.”

Step-by-step approach is code for “we’re going to stall for as long as humanly possible.” Their focus is only on the next election. The GOP agenda is not now, nor will it ever be serious about immigration reform. For someone like Congressman Brady, member of both the House Ways and Means Committee and House-Senate Joint Economic Committee, to be dismissing any hopes of a substantive bill from the House is a big problem. Brady lives in a very safe district that is majority white and majority Republican… basically, he can afford to tell the truth on this issue, and not worry about much blowback. Please folks, don’t be fooled by the Republican rhetoric. If you want Immigration reform passed, vote for the Democrats. And maybe someday, the Democratic party will grow a spine and run on the issue too.

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.

BREAKING: Immigration Reform Bill PASSES the Senate, 68-32

In continuance of has turned out to be quite the week in American politics, the United States Senate has passed the Gang of 8’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill by a vote of 68 to 32. The final vote was taken at approximately 3:24pm CST.

Now the pressure is officially on for the US House of Representatives. The bi-partisan legislation includes the votes of 14 Republicans. It is up to House Speaker John Boehner to see Immigration reform to the end. Most analysts say that the bill could pass the House if Boehner is will to break the “Hastert Rule”. If this is done, the bill would pass mostly by Democratic support.

Here’s my quick look at the Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform plan.

Houston’s Strong Economy: Why It’s more than just Hype

Houston seems to be a favorite subject of national media these days. But perhaps it’s good hear about the Houston economy from those that are actually living it day to day. Here are six reasons I think Houston’s economy is working so well…

1) Houston didn’t have much of a housing boom last decade, so it’s less likely that we’d have a housing bust in the near future.

2) Health care jobs are growing. We’re still on the leading edge of Baby Boomer retirements, so it’s reasonable to think that any city that has a strong health care center is only going to see more growth in coming years. Plus, with the ACA and a massive Medicaid expansion (even without Texas at this point) the need for doctors, nurses and other health workers is stronger than ever. Makes sense that ever since I’ve moved here, the Medical Center has always been dotted with cranes.

3) Port of Houston shipping strength. As home to one of the nation’s largest ports, and one of the largest freight rail hubs, Houston is well-positioned to take advantage of our nation’s growing shipping industry. And grow it shall… once completed in 2015, the widening of the Panama Canal is expected to double it’s traffic capacity. The Port of Houston has spent millions to get ready for it, so all signs point to a busier shipping industry in the Bayou City.

4) Energy diversification. Sure… having oil and energy-related jobs be nearly half of your economy may not sound “diverse” but it’s a heck of a lot better off than the mid-1980s, when oil made up 87 percent of the Houston economy. Plus the jobs themselves are different now. Far fewer of the strictly industrial labor sector, and more people that are engineers and specialists, the future of the energy industry.

5) Good governance. Our current city government has been a good steward of public money, and as a result we are investing in our transit system, schools, parks, bike trails and infrastructure at an impressive rate. With programs like Hire Houston First, these investments are creating jobs for local companies. Under Mayor Annise Parker’s leadership, things are getting done at City Hall.

6) Immigration reform? As Texas’ second largest metropolitan area, Houston has a particularly special interest in our nation’s immigration system. If done well (let’s be honest… if done AT ALL), the recognition of the US’ undocumented population is going to bring over 11 million people into legal, working status. And that’s going to create some serious jobs. Houston is home to a large population of immigrants legal and otherwise, so we stand at the forefront of CIR’s effects.

I’m cautious to use terms like “economic boom” because anything can happen. But it’s fair to say that Houston is on a strong economic path for the next few years. So don’t believe the hype… instead, just look at the facts.

Immigration Reform shouldn’t be a partisan issue…

But let’s face facts here folks… it IS. Even if there are a precious few Republican Congress members that sincerely want to fix our broken immigration system, that number is not enough to matter in the grand scheme of Republican politics. There is still far too large a segment of the GOP that really HATES the idea of allowing undocumented persons to be recognized by the government. If they didn’t, then why is it that (as President Obama politely reminded us at the opening Bush 43’s Library) 3 previous attempts crashed and burned during the Grand Ol’ Bush Administration? When Republicans were in control under an arguably Pro- Immigration Reform President, they tried 3 times and got NOWHERE.

Given recent developments from last week, it’s critical for us to look at why the 2007 attempt did not work. Back then, the failure of the Senate to approve Bush’s measure truly was a Bi-Partisan defeat, as 15 Democrats actually voted against the legislation, citing many similar concerns as the GOP. And eventhough plenty of Democrats didn’t like George W. Bush, they didn’t try to ruin him at every turn the way Republicans have to Obama.

But one thing that both attempts had in common? The Heritage Foundation… a Right-wing think tank. Just like today, Heritage also released a study in 2007 that was timed almost perfectly to scuttle Bush’s Comphrehensive Immigration Reform (abbreviated as “CIR” bill. It served its purpose by pealing off Conservative Democrats and Republicans to vote against the legislation. So is anyone surprised that Heritage felt the necessity to release a similar study last week? And here’s the funny part… both studies make an insane claim that Amnesty will somehow cost the American economy $6.3 Trillion dollars, and neither take into account any of the contributions that Undocumented persons make in our society right now. They work, they go to school, they pay sales taxes, and do almost every thing that other Americans do. But the Heritage Foundation doesn’t mention any of this in its flawed logic. In 2007, these lies were enough to make President Bush 0 for 0 on CIR.

President Obama’s attempts have already gone better though. Let’s not forget that the DREAM ACT came within one GOP filibuster of being law in 2010. Even after that defeat, the President still accomplished many elements of the DREAM Act via Executive Order in 2012, bringing some small measure of hope to that select group of persons. By any measure, Obama and Democrats are the ones that have been responsible for any progress on this issue for the last 30 years, and they certainly weren’t the ones standing in the way when the other side tried to fix it. On the other hand, all the GOP can do is run, hide and tell lies. In every scenario that Comprehensive Immigration Reform laws could pass the House of Representatives, they require virtually all House Democrats to combine with a few “reasonable” Republican members. IF it gets done, that’s the only way CIR is going to happen. So again, I say that I wish Immigration Reform was not a partisan issue, but right now at least in Washington, it is textbook divide and squander. Anyone that wants real progress should remember this going into 2014.

Dos Centavos has some great coverage on this issue as well. Please make sure to check it out.