Liveblog: Race & Immigration at The Texas Tribune Festival

We're liveblogging this weekend from The Texas Tribune Festival's Race & Immigration track, which includes panels on the future of Texas politics, border safety, the DREAM Act, voter ID and whether Texas still needs the Voting Rights Act.

Featured speakers include Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz; San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro; state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Follow us here for updates from the University of Texas at Austin campus. 

Liveblog

by Julián Aguilar
Getting ready for Ted Cruz, Republican candidate for US Senate, and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro on the future of Texas politics.
by Julián Aguilar

Castro and Cruz, both fresh from their appearances at national political conventions, have drawn a standing-room only crowd. 

by Julián Aguilar

Castro, on what he’s learned after being named the keynote at the DNC last month. People are still committed to the fundamental ideas that made USA the best country in the world, and “I also learned that my daughter knows how to flip her hair.” 

by Julián Aguilar

Cruz: “It has been dizzying experience.” Now says USA is at a fiscal and economic cliff. “We’ve created a debt that is out of control.” Says the debt, tied with government spending and power “is crippling small business.” 

by Julián Aguilar

Castro: One side is not willing to be realistic about how to tackle these problems. Says the real problem is figuring out how both parties can come together to tackle current situation.

Cruz: When I hear politicians say “sacrifice” I hear “grab your wallets.” Says that historically, government spending is 20 percent of GDP. "I don't think the problem is we are taxed too much. The problem is that we are spending too much." 

 

by Julián Aguilar

Castro on tax-increase proposal to fund education in SA: “I believe that brain power is the currency of success.  San Antonio needs to make a huge investment in education.”  Says what he has on table, the 1/8 cent increase in rate, is opportunity to educate more than 22k pre-k children. 

by Julián Aguilar

Cruz, when asked if Castro’s proposal is an example of “local control”? Commends Castro on taking issue to voters. Says he would listen to Castro’s argument before deciding to vote “no” on proposal.  Adds that what might be a good idea in San Antonio may not work in Laredo or New York City. 

by Julián Aguilar

Cruz: Obamacare will move toward single-payer system if fully implemented. Says it is designed to lead country toward socialized medicine. 

by Julián Aguilar

Castro on Obamacare: Great example of how it works is the state of Massachusetts .

Massachusetts folks like it, it’s worked well and "it would be a good thing if Romney embraced it." 

by Julián Aguilar

Cruz on allowing people to stay on parents’ insurance until age 26: It will increase costs across the board. Says he is against it as a government mandate. Says it should be an option. On denial of care based on pre-existing conditions. “I disagree with individual mandate. “

 

 

by Julián Aguilar

Castro: We don’t want to wait until someone has a health-care catastrophe. “That’s what we ought to aim for as a nation.” 

by Julián Aguilar

On immigration: Cruz says immigration is an issue that nether party is serious about. Underlying policy is simple: We need to get serious about securing our border. No. 2 “ we need to remain a nation that not jut celebrates but welcomes legal immigrants.” On Reagan’s 1986 “amnesty”: I don’t think amnesty is the right approach and it is unfair to millions of legal immigrants who waited and did the right think. Opposes the DREAM Act.

by Julián Aguilar

Castro: Agrees with prosecutorial discretion policy. Says number of BP agents has doubled and that borders are more secure than they have ever been. Says Obama is getting heat from both sides because of his deportation policies and deferred action for immigrant children. 

by Julián Aguilar

Castro: DREAMers are morally blameless. US is stronger if we go in another direction (that deportation only). Cruz: A year ago President Obama said he had no constitutional authority to pass DREAM Act or similar policies. All of a sudden, in an election year, he acts.

“I am concerned with unchecked power. The constitution was designed to limit that.” Cruz says. Asks what Castro would think if a GOP president tried that. Castro: “I thought we already went through that, a couple of years back.” 

by Julián Aguilar

Q and A: Cost of education has skyrocketed. What is your message to young people like me?

Castro: Stick with what is going to be pay dirt in 21st century global economy: education. “You’re never going to hurt yourself by educating yourself.”

 

 

by Julián Aguilar

Cruz on Cuban Adjustment Act: It Is how my father got here and there is a rule that is true throughout this country: We recognize rule of asylum. We have recognized that political oppression is qualitatively different … from men and women who are coming because of economic issues.

Says he would be “thrilled” to repeal Cuban Adjustment Act when Cuba is not run by a dictator. 

by Julián Aguilar

Up next: An 83rd Legislative session preview with state Sens. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and state Reps. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. 

by Julián Aguilar

Rodriguez: All reports show immigrants contribute more to our economy and our way of life than they take out.  Says argument that we need to secure the border before any talk of immigration reform resumes is just a stall tactic by both parties. Hopes for a more civil and intelligent legislative session next year than what was witnessed in 2011 over voter ID and redistricting. 

by Julián Aguilar

Van de Putte: What should happen when people come to Texas is that Texans greet them by saying “Bienvenidos, y’all.” Reiterates support for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants who have excelled in school and stayed out of trouble. “Some people think this gives them a free ride. It doesn’t.” Says she was very sad and surprised when Gov. Perry was booed on campaign trail after his “heartless” comment.

“As Texans we don’t blame children for the transgressions of their parents.” 

by Julián Aguilar

Riddle: I want to bring a little bit of reality to what happens in Texas. Texas is not Washington DC. We don’t always agree but we are also friends. “I would like to say that we here in Texas are blessed because those of us in the legislature, we get along and we do debate.”  

 

However, diversity and immigration is different from those that come illegally and don’t respect our laws. We are a country that appreciates the rule of law.

Says Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had an important dream and that it should be about the content of one’s character and not the color of one’s skin.

“Now it seems that we are always talking about the color of one’s skin,” she says.   

by Julián Aguilar

Gonzales: I am more of a “catches flies with honey and not vinegar” guy.  My friends on the left will look at the immigration debate as an opportunity issue and friends on the right see it as a law-and-order issue. Says it should be both. Hopes for a more civil tone next year.

by Julián Aguilar

What to expect on immigration next session: Arizona-style bills? “Anchor baby” issues?

Van de Putte: Gov. Perry will set tone. If he puts voter ID and “sanctuary cities” bills on call, it will be a toxic session. Says lege should focus on what is really important, water, budget, education. 

by Julián Aguilar

Rodriguez: No doubt that lege will revisit anti-immigration issues. Says Perry and others have already indicated support for a “show-me-your-papers” bill, or “sanctuary city” legislation. A sanctuary city is the common term for entities that prohibit law enforcement from inquiring about immigration status.

 

by Julián Aguilar

Gonzales: “I have no idea what to expect … but I will not file any immigration bills.” Said he championed an amendment that prohibited racial profiling last session.

“I don’t want my 79-year-old grandmother stopped,” he says.   Says states across the country have started filing fewer immigration bills because they are expensive to litigate, and hard to pass. 

by Julián Aguilar

Riddle: Our No. 1 priority should be that the safety of Texans is well established. “That really is the core of what government is all about,” she says. [But] in Houston there is real concern and the city is considered the command and control center for Mexican drug cartels. 

Says she will be working on things adopted at the state’s GOP platform, including securing the border.

 

“Look what happened in Libya. There are people that hate us and want to see us dead.”  Adds: “I find it offensive that we continue calling folks who are opposed to illegal immigration as ‘anti-immigrant.’

“We are in favor of immigration and we need to reexamine laws. But to say that those of us who have real concerns are anti-immigrant is wrong,” she says. 

by Julián Aguilar

Riddle disputes report (in 2006) that says undocumented immigrants put in more than they take out. Says it’s half-true and cites data that says local economies lose out, despite gains to state coffers. Says local governments bear the burden by billions of dollars for incarceration and health care costs. 

by Julián Aguilar

Rodriguez says voter ID bill isn’t just considered by some a voter suppression bill but that federal courts have, in fact, declared it a tried-and-true voter suppression bill. 

by Julián Aguilar

Van de Putte says term “anchor baby” is offensive and reprehensible. Babies born here should be called citizens, she says. 

by Audrey White

Tribune reporter Julian Aguilar is about to begin a panel with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Todd Staples, the Texas Agricultural Commissioner titled "How safe is the border? And what should we do about it?"

by Audrey White

Staples says he's involved in the border discussion in part because conflict on the border poses safety, economic challenges for Texas farmers. Cuellar says we're seeing more deportations, more border patrol including 8k on Texas border. $2.3 billion has come to the state of Texas for this issue. We've got to work together to find solutions.

by Audrey White

Staples says Washington is in denial about the border's safety. "We've had 140 dead bodies" in rural Texas counties in the last year. "No amount of statistics can cover up the bullet holes."  Crime data doesn't cover drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, kidnapping and extortion. 93 percent of Texas-Mexico border is rural and unincorporated, which poses challenges, he adds.

by Audrey White

Cuellar says people insult the border by calling it a warzone, says a study Staples helped put together doesn't tell the real story. "Mexico is not an enemy. We've got to start off with working together to protect the border." The drug cartels are in cities around the U.S., and I want to work with Staples to come up with solutions.

by Audrey White

Law enforcement and Texas farmers do feel it is a war zone, Staples says. Texas has fewer border agents per mile than NM, AZ and CA. "The American people just want the truth" about the border. "We need parity with those other states."

by Audrey White

Staples and Cuellar shake hands and say they want to work together - but they seem to have different ideas about what that might look like. The two men have different perspectives on how safe/unsafe the border is for Texans.

by Audrey White

The conversation about national security started in 2001, including border security, says Cuellar. This started off with the terrorists - who did not come in through the southern border, they came in through visas. If you want to help with border security, Todd and I both believe immigration reform will be part of that. A guest worker program could help focus resources.

by Audrey White

We need to increase military, police presence and "characterize drug cartels as what they are, terroristic activity," Staples says.

by Audrey White

Aguilar changes the topic to spillover violence and asks each speaker to address how much there is.

Staples - We have kidnapping cases in San Antonio. Last year in Austin a cartel operating was busted up. Last month, the special agent in charge of the DEA in Chicago said Guzman is the most violent drug cartel in the world and has operations in Chicago. 

Cuellar - Cartels are in 250 cities, including here in Austin. Anytime you have a situation in Mexico, you're always worried about the spillover. No one is saying there are no incidents, but how do we address them? How do we work with ntelligence, ICE agents, etc. 

by Audrey White

Staples and Cuellar agree we have to find ways reduce border and cartel gun violence without infringing on the 2nd Amendment. Putting out info in Spanish could help in some areas, Cuellar says.

by Audrey White

Texas and Mexico trade $1.2 billion worth of goods per day - and Laredo, Cuellar's home base, is the key inland port, Cuellar says. For every $1 we spend on security, they spend $13. We've got to start building their capacity - prisons, judiciary, police force, he says, and that will take a long time. We have a much better legal institution here, he says.

by Audrey White

"The people of Texas elected me to solve problems," Staples says. "This is the greatest usurpation of landowner rights I can imagine when you have drug cartels chasing people off their property.

Now it's time for audience questions.

by Audrey White

Legalizing marijuana wouldn't take care of the cocaine, heroine, meth, etc that we see in cartels, Staples says in response to a question. Cuellar says we can find solutions besides legalization. Rehab and education starting with young children is more important, he says. The question asker said there is a $30 billion annual market for drugs in the U.S.; Congress pumps $31 billion into drug education annually, Cuellar said.

by Audrey White

"Our country has relied on guest labor for 60 + years. You're seeing more proposals...it gets politicized. We tried amnesty in 1986 and it failed. We have...the naturalization process," said Staples.

Cuellar says he is also not pro-amnesty. "We can talk about immigration reform...We can work it out. I support full immigration reform, maybe not the way it was done in 1986."

by Audrey White

"We have a host of ills in society today" because parents don't teach their children, Staples says. The constitution says it's the federal government's job to protect our borders. We have to make sure border security is funded, he says.

by Audrey White

"If the president is a Republican, the Democrats are going to complain. If you have a Democrat president, the Republicans are going to complain," Cuellar says. He adds that the current border plan came from George W. Bush's administration. We have to stop politicizing the border to find comprehensive solutions, he says. 

by Audrey White

The Economist's Erica Grieder moderates a panel called Is the President right about the DREAM Act? Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, and Joshua Treviño, the former VP for communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

by Audrey White

The Economist's Erica Grieder moderates a panel called Is the President right about the DREAM Act? Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, and Joshua Treviño, the former VP for communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

by Audrey White

The four speakers answer the title question.

Castro - Yes. We have to do right by the children brought here through no fault of their own.

Torres - Not entirely. I do not agree with the way the president handled his decision to not deport undocumented students. He usurped the duties of congress, and his plan does not help many individuals like small business owners.

Luna - Congress had the opportunity to pass the DREAM Act and did not. I share a personal story with undocumented youth, because I was brought here as a baby. "It is not best that it was done under an executive order, but we're moving in the right direction."

Treviño - It was politically a good decision, because no one against it was going to vote for him anyway. The DREAM Act "has been bouncing around in its various forms" for a decade. We have to make law through Congress. "Something so profound as the question of who is an American...is something that needs to be addressed through Congress."

by Audrey White

"If congress doesn't pass a law that you want, that's not a sign that congress is broken. The solution...is to elect different congressmen, and that's something that we get the chance to do every two years. I don't buy the argument that it's been stalled and therefore we need alternative avenues," says Treviño.

by Audrey White

Castro responds, "There is a legislative process. There is a fillibuster process that can be used. But then you shouldn't make the political argument after blocking it that way that Democrats and the president are doing nothing. That's a specious argument."

by Audrey White

"If you ask the students here at the University of Texas, there is a threat. They can't go out of town for school trips. That's a threat to them. They can't board a plane," says Luna after Treviño says students aren't the one at risk of deportation.

by Audrey White

"The bill doesn't go far enough to do the right thing," says Torres. Says it should include more productive workers. Castro says he hopes Torres will fight for that, and Torres agrees to applause from the crowd.

by Audrey White

Treviño says many, including Dems, benefit from the lack of comprehensive immigration reform because the status quo gives them a dedicated demographic. Castro disagrees: "Anna and I would like to stop arguing about this" and see reform happen.

by Audrey White

Castro: "There are people in politics who want to do the right thing." When crowd applauds, Treviño quips, "Oh, you people are going to be so disappointed."

by Audrey White

Castro: Hispanics have always voted Democratic. "It's not a Johnny-come-lately thing for them." He suspects the 2012 vote for Obama from Hispanics will be about the same as 2008.

by Audrey White

It's time for audience questions.

Question asker says his son's girlfriend, who is undocumented, is about to have a child. "I don't know what to do." Should she apply? She's eligible for the DREAM Act. This is her life.

Castro says - She should apply. 70k something folks have applied, and this relief can be very helpful.

Treviño - "Congratulations, legal questions aside...Your grandchild is going to be an American citizen. Even absent the president's decision I suspect the child and the mother would have the right to stay in the United States. But for self interest, I would recommend doing it."

by Audrey White

Question asker asks about increasing Democratic Party presence in Texas and about Republicans changing minds from within.

"We are the state that has gone the longest without electing a Democrat statewide - since 1994. There is a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built in this state to elect Democrats statewide," says Castro. "I do see a bright future for Democrats in Texas. Many are working on building out that infrastructure."

Torres says, "If the Republican Party isn't sensitive to these issues and attentive to finding comprehensive solutions, we will cease to be a Red state. That's why I'm working to help my bretheren better understand these issues, because I have lived them."

by Audrey White

State Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburgh, is in the room. Treviño points out that a lot of Latino legislators including Peña are moving to the GOP.

by Audrey White

Question asker wants to know if it is economically viable to support the DREAM Act.

Treviño: When you look at the U.S. census data on the difference for a Hispanic male with or without a degree is between $700k and $1 million. So in terms of the economy and taxpaying, it does make economic sense. But nobody really knows how much Latinos take out in social services. "America, historically, for any group of people...has always operated on the premise that anyone who is willing to come to this country and work is going to be of net benefit to this country...That gamble has typically worked out." But this isn't just an economic question, "It's also a rule of law question.

Luna: "When people are educated, they pay more taxes, they become owners. I think they would help our state's economy.

Torres: Latinos are the fastest growing population in Texas so "if we don't get the education piece right, Texas industry will not have the human capital to allow itself to continue to grow."

by Audrey White

That's it for the DREAM Act talk. Up next: Does Texas still need the voting rights act? with Julían Aguilar moderating. Attorney Chad Dunn, Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburgh, VP of litigation for MALDEF Nina Perales, and Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton speaking.

by Jay Root

Before panel begins, Pena weighs in with a description of Trib-Fest: "a concert for nerds."

 

by Jay Root

Does Texas still need the Voting Rights Act?

by Jay Root

Aaron Pena says "we've moved forward" since 60's. Notes Section 5 was only supposed to last five  years.

by Jay Root

Pena says Texas now majority minority state when Anglos no longer in majority. Says VRA has done great things.

by Jay Root

Solomons says yes-and-no to question of whether VRA still needed. 'I think the Voting Rights Act serves a purpose." But says if Section 5 should apply to other states if Texas has to be subjected to it.

by Jay Root

Solomons says "tread very carefully" before VRA is changed.

by Jay Root

Nina Perales says VRA still needed in TX. Says most voting changes are approved by Feds, contrary to perception that Feds are blocking everything.

by Jay Root

Chad Dunn (Dem lawyer) says no question VRA needed. As long as you have polarized voting -- along racial lines -- then act is needed.

by Jay Root

Dunn notes that political staffers sometimes "overzealous" in redistricting. Says racial animus not motivating factor the way it was in 60's but now politics used nefariously and negative impact on racial minorities is same.

by Jay Root

Pena says VRA used against him, questions why given that he is from area where Hispanics are overwhelmingly in majority.

by Jay Root

Perales says "candidate of choice" is not defined by party. Says Hispanics suffered from discriminatory practice under one-party Democratic rule.

by Jay Root

Perales says both parties have tried to use VRA for partisan advantage.

by Jay Root

Pena says Republican Hispanics "paid the price" for their conservative views, not considered to be "candidate of choice"

by Jay Root

Pena says redistricting has promoted liberal Dems and conservative Republicans

by Jay Root

Dunn agrees with Pena about redistricting producing candidates from extreme ends of parties. Also says Latino districts that pick Republcians should be protected under VRA.

by Jay Root

Solomons: "redistricitng is inherently political"

by Jay Root

Solomons about redistricting: "It's poltical, it's not racial."

by Jay Root

Solomons about the 2011 redraw: "We had 101 Republicans and we asserted power."

by Jay Root

Solomons makes case that Section 5 needs to be modified. Said it's not fair for other states not to be subject to it when Texas is.

by Jay Root

Solomons: "I do think the Voting Rights Acts serves a purpose ... there are some things that are very subjective."

by Jay Root

Perales says CD 23 was redrawn to take Hispanics out in order to protect incumbent, demonstrating need for VRA.

by Jay Root

Solomons says if Dems had 101 House members they would have tried to help Democrats thru redistricting.

by Jay Root

Solomons on CD 23 redraw: "It was really political. It wasn't racial."

by Jay Root

Pena on Voter ID: says most polls show strong support for it, said members backed it because their constituents want it.

by Jay Root

Dunn says just because something is popular doesn't mean they are the right thing to do. Says voters don't like providing defense lawyers for poor people accused of crimes, but it needs to be done.

by Jay Root

Dunn says primary motivation for Voter ID is concern about changing demographics. Says backers want to keep new, Dem-leaning voters from participating.

by Jay Root

Perales says TX has been repeatedly rebuked by courts for violating voting rights provisions. Says TX has  "consistent record" of breaking rules: "Texas is the worst of all the states."

by Jay Root

Pena about VRA: "If it applied to the whole nation it wouldn't be there."

by Jay Root

Dunn says there are "bailout" provisions that allow states to get out of VRA's Section 5, but you have to prove you can "behave" and he says Texas hasn't done that.

by Jay Root

Audience member agrees act should apply to other states.

by Jay Root

Solomons says there would be a lot of election turnover if with open primary and computer programs used for redistricting.

by Jay Root

Perales says "Latinos are very flexible" and not necessarily in camp of Dems or Republicans.

by Jay Root

Dunn: "There's got to be a better system. This system is terrible."

by Jay Root

Dunn: Until a new system is created, VRA provides needed protections.

by Jay Root

What will Anglos do when this is largely Hispanic state? Will Hispanics and blacks still be protected? What will happend to "white minority population? ... It just seems unfair."

by Jay Root

Perales: "I think Texas is on the cusp of being even more diverse than it is now." She says she hopes there won't be polarized voting anymore. That will be time to get out of Section 5. "We'll get there. We're on this steady march."

by Jay Root

Voting Rights discussion over now. Very lively!

by Julián Aguilar

Next panel: Voter ID: The Great Debate featuring state Reps. Jose Aliseda, R-Beeville, and Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. Moderated by Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a political analyst and fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

by Julián Aguilar

Aliseda: This concept is nothing new. Says Texas has been trying to pass voter ID since 80th session, in 2007. This is 2012, and in the United States of America. We need a photo ID to vote. We need if for everything else, from boarding an airplane to applying for government assistance.

“I think it’s a reasonable sensible solution to restore voter confidence,” Aliseda says. 

by Julián Aguilar

Trey Martinez Fischer says voter ID was actually first attempted since 2005, adds that getting on an airplane is not a constitutional right, as is voting.

 

TMF: This was an emergency item (according to our governor) yet you didn’t see Perry tapping Rainy Day Fund to pay for birth certificates or free IDs for poor voters. Says voter ID was no reprehensible in court’s opinion, it was “thrown out on the first pitch.” 

by Julián Aguilar

Aliseda: Who is this country does not have an ID? If they are on the welfare roles, they have to have an ID. Do you know anyone that doesn’t have an ID card? They don’t exist.

“The only person that I believe doesn’t have an ID is the Unabomber,” he says.

by Julián Aguilar

Getting a little testy over free ID provision. TMF to Aliseda, “ I can interrupt you too, but I won’t.”

Aliseda doubles down on why the poor, who opponents say will be disenfranchised by voter ID, can get a birth certificate to get on welfare or social security benefits. Birth certificate is required to get Texas’ free ID card to vote .

by Julián Aguilar

Moderator: This has become a shouting match and I am going to open it up to questions.

by Julián Aguilar

Question is about what counties need to clamp down on voter fraud. TMF says most cases are mail fraud. Earlier called out Aliseda for not obtaining any convictions. Aliseda said he was successful in two cases. 

by Julián Aguilar

Question is why state feels justified to spend money on voter ID laws with current budget crisis.

“It’s worth every dollar that we can spend to protect integrity at ballot box,” Aliseda says. TMF reminds crowd that fiscal note on bill is $2 million. Says it’s not coming out of Aliseda’s wallet.  

by Julián Aguilar

Question about why student IDs can’t be used to vote under voter ID law. Aliseda said UT Austin requires a state ID to get a student ID, too. 

by Julián Aguilar

Question: Court was critical of state for failing to subpoena key witnesses. Was the voter ID bill set up to fail in order for state to take it to Supreme Court of the United States?

TMF: “I think that court in Washington had a very critical opinion of case and tactics.”

Aliseda: “The Voting Rights Act requires that Texas proves a negative.” Says it’s the same as TMF trying to prove he doesn’t walk around his house in a woman’s underwear.

TMF says they won’t fit. Very funny gentlemen!! 

by Julián Aguilar

And that's about it for today folks! Who's ready for a beer? I am!! See you at Scholz 

by Julián Aguilar

At this morning's breakfast, Beto O'Rourke, Democratic candidate for CD-16, calls the El Paso/Juárez border the Ellis Island of the Texas-Mexico border. Talks about Mexican revolution that began in 1910 and compares that situation to what is currently going on in Chihuahua and especially Ciudad Juárez. Says the current drug war is the biggest catastrophe that has ever hit the area.

by Julián Aguilar

O’Rourke says El Paso/Juarez border needs to share how current drug laws have affected the area. Says the country needs something better to replace those ideas and that a conversation is needed. Adds that several states across the country have shown Congress that there is a willingness to have a dialogue – at least with respect to medicinal marijuana.

by Julián Aguilar

On comprehensive immigration reform, O’Rourke reiterates support for DREAM Act, says that people in the country illegally need a pathway to be able to contribute to society and not be forced to wait 20 years after being sent to their countries of origin before returning to USA. Adds that a lot of immigrants here don’t necessarily want to stay or be citizens, but instead work and gain resources for themselves and families.

by Julián Aguilar

On how infiltrated El Paso is with cartel elements, O’Rourke says not that much. Concedes there are random acts of violence in the border city, but that it remains one of the safest in the US. Says the conversation needs to shift from the fear-mongering rhetoric of “Mexicans coming across to sell drugs to our children” to who is buying the drugs and why.

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