The United States Senate Thursday passed sweeping immigration reform with S. 744. Formally called the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," it was spearheaded by a bipartisan group of eight Senators known as the "Gang of Eight,:" and received resounding "no" votes from Texas' own Senators Cornyn and Cruz.
As Burnt Orange Report's Emily Cadik wrote on the bill's passage:
"In addition to the 13-year pathway to citizenship, the bill implements security benchmarks for those seeking green cards, bolsters border security, requires workplace verification for employers, and creates a new visa program for lesser-skilled workers. While it may not be a perfect bill, it's our best shot at allowing 11 million people working, living, learning and raising families in the U.S. a chance to come out of the shadows."
To see what happens with the bill next, read below the jump.
As Congress begins debate on comprehensive immigration reform, attorney Austin Kaplan brings us a guest post about why both Texas Senators and all of our Congressmembers need to support this reform.
Texans in Purgatory as Immigration Debate Begins By Austin Kaplan
Here is why everyone in Texas, especially our Senators, should support the bipartisan federal immigration bill that provides provisional status and a path to citizenship for undocumented people: unbeknownst to many Texans, more than an estimated 1 million undocumented people who live in Texas' Rio Grande Valley cannot leave it. They are bounded in by internal highway "border" checkpoints - located miles north of the actual border on each highway leaving the Valley- at which every single car is stopped and its passengers questioned. The effect of these checkpoints is to doom undocumented residents who already live here to a kind of Texas purgatory - they are neither fully in Mexico, nor fully in Texas. They live in the Valley, which, for them, might as well be a third country.
The Valley is the southernmost portion of Texas, located along the 1,254 mile border with Mexico. This is the longest border with Mexico of any state. The border region, or bounded area in which checkpoints can operate, stretches as far as 100 miles north of the actual border. So, it follows that Texas would have the largest population bounded in by function of checkpoints.
When President Obama gave his 2nd inaugural speech announcing Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a top priority it became an opportunity for Texas Democrats to stand up and take a leadership role.
Congressman Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), whose district has the longest stretch of U.S. - Mexico border at 800 miles, accepted that challenge. Today Rep. Gallego spoke on the House floor in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform -- especially with regards to those serving in the armed forces. He wants to ensure the citizens of his district, which contains 5 ports of entry as well as 3 major military bases, are allowed to determine their own fate through "hard work", and not "circumstance". The Senate's so called "Gang of Eight" has released details of their version of the plan on Tuesday.
Watch the Congressman's speech on the floor and click the jump for the full transcript...
For weeks Congressional Republicans, including Texas' own Senator John Cornyn criticized the President's comprehensive immigration reform proposal because they thought border security should be the top priority. On Tuesday Rep. Pete Gallego who represents the longest stretch of Texas-Mexico in Congress made it clear that the single biggest threat to border security is actually sequestration. In his first floor speech he admonished Congress for its finger pointing on the issue and challenged members to work together to solve the nation's problems.
"In small town West Texas when there's a fire everyone works together to put the fire out and no one focuses on how the fire started or who started the fire until after the fire is out. Here and now in Washington many folks are more focused on who is to blame for the sequester than trying to do something about it." - Rep. Gallego
The Congressman characterized the across the board cuts as having both economic and national security implications, saying, "Not having a vote this week is a decision by some in Congress for decreased border security, job loss and furloughs, and it devastates local communities and the state of Texas." His district contains a number of strategic military bases including Ft. Bliss in El Paso and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio that could face furloughs in the tens of thousands.
His office also released this handy infographic of the impact of sequestration on the US-Mexico border. You can follow him on twitter at @RepPeteGallego and see his house floor speech below the jump.
An exhaustive investigative report by the Texas Tribune showed that the City of Houston and the state of Texas have practically identical policies, writing that:
A comparison of Houston's policy under White and that of the Texas Department of Public Safety under Perry reveals little difference between the two — and their respective rationales are almost identical. So if Houston is a sanctuary city, is Texas a sanctuary state?
Perry's stone-casting has drawn attention to the state's own shortcomings in combating illegal immigration. It also reveals inconsistencies in the governor's position on immigration enforcement that suggest his stance is based more on (surprise!) politics than principle.
When confronted about his lie by Evan Smith in his hour-long interview ten days ago, Rick Perry could not explain his lie. Instead, he threatened Evan Smith -- saying that he and anyone else who try to point out Perry's blatant hypocrisy would be "treading on thin ice." Watch for yourself below:
(This is a seat we need to hold. - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)
While the Presidential race continues to suck a lot of the air out of the Texas political atmosphere, vitally important down-ballot races are kicking into high gear as early voting approaches. The race for HD-17 (Bastrop, Fayette, Lee, Burleson, Colorado counties)is heating up as the GOP looks to pick up the seat vacated by Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake) and Donnie Dippel works hard to keep it in the Democratic column.
Rick Perry tool Tim Kleinschmidt has been spending gobs of PAC and lobbyist money (much of it from the likes of TLR, TX Oil and Gas PAC, and Bob Perry) trying to discredit Dippel and press hot buttons like he's done with his insidious mailers. The latest one I received (thanks, Tim!) touts his "plan to secure our borders" by spending state funds on border enforcement and requiring photo I.D. to vote. Apparently the cookie-cutters who designed his campaign neglected to tell Tim that border security is a FEDERAL issue and that photo I.D. for voting is an unconstitutional imposition akin to a poll tax.
Needless to say, Tim is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Kleinschmidt was recently busted for paying his daughter with campaign funds in direct violation of state election laws, and also apparently tried to film his campaign commercials during a non-partisan public forum in Bastrop recently. Later that week, at another candidate forum in Colorado County (in which the parties had agreed to no candidate cameras), Kleinschmidt failed to even show up and sent a surrogate instead. Clearly he's not interested in talking about the issues, since he's apparently confused about a number of them: Kleinschmidt mentions "supporting local schools" but also supports private school vouchers (which is it, Tim?), and claims to oppose toll roads and the TTC ( a new position from 2006...) while having fundraisers hosted by the Godfathers of the Toll Road Lobby like Perry and Mike Toomey. But despite his many ties with big insurance, big oil, and various other anti-labor and anti-working family forces that have made the Capitol and Guv's Mansion their personal playground for the last 10+ years - Tim claims he's an "independent voice" for rural Texas "values" !
Meanwhile, long-time Fayette County rancher and ag consultant Donnie Dippel (who would the cows really support, Tim?) is running on a sound platform that speaks to the actual issues affecting working families of the 17th District: fully funding our public schools and bringing back vocational training programs(strengthening the rural labor force), support for rural health care services like CHIP and local hospitals, support for volunteer fire departments and rural law enforcement, repealing the Republican-enacted small business tax, (back to those "small town values" again) , protecting our water resources (as Kleinschmidt sells his water out of the District!) and encouraging economic development in HD-17, with it's mix of rural and exurban communities.
One of the most important developments in the effort by border residents to combat the national effort to secure the border using a wall or fence is gaining traction.
Developed in Texas, the concept of a border levee system is gaining significant traction with Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, approving the levee concept in Hidalgo County.
The border wall (as originally proposed) will have a severe negative impact on border communities in Texas without any promise of actually making the border more secure or reducing the influx of illegal immigrants.
The border levee concept enhances existing barriers along the border while minimizing the impact to counties, cities and private property holders.
Throughout my career in the U.S. Border Patrol and since being elected to Congress, I have been an advocate for increased border. Despite their rhetoric to the contrary, House Republicans have opposed my efforts to increase border resources and border security.
You could say, the most action House Republicans have taken on border security has been in the course of opposing more resources for the border.
On the other hand, in terms of noise-making on the issue, the House GOP is unmatched. I figure, they need to be loud in order to obscure the fact that Republicans are splintered on the issue of border enforcement and immigration. From the President to the Senate to the House to the states, the GOP Caucus can't agree on protecting our borders and ensuring our national security.
Anyway, read below the fold for the Republican record on border security in the House. Republicans opposed and voted against increased resources for the border 11 times!