The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 18, 2013

The Big Conversation

A leaked White House plan has injected new rancor into the fight over immigration reform.

The plan, a draft of which USA Today obtained and reported on over the weekend, would allow undocumented immigrants to become permanent legal U.S. residents within about eight years and to apply for new "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visas.

Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama's new chief of staff, said on Sunday that the administration had developed the plan as "an option that will be ready to put out there" if Congress fails to pass its own bill. A bipartisan group of eight senators — including John McCain, R-Ariz.; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — is attempting to win support for a plan they unveiled last month.

Republicans slammed the new White House proposal, mostly over the pathway to citizenship and border security. Rubio, who has emerged as a leading voice on immigration for Republicans since they lost heavily among Hispanics in the 2012 election, said it would be "dead on arrival" in Congress. 

"It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, [and] creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally," Rubio said in a statement. "It would actually make our immigration problems worse."

But Democrats, like U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, defended the White House, as the Express-News reports.

"It's important that every branch of government, the executive and legislative branch, work on this," Castro said Sunday on ABC's This Week, adding, "There is a silver lining in that there are a lot of commonalities between the two plans, including a pathway to citizenship, so there is a lot to work with there." 

The flare-up came the same day Castro and Texas' four other freshman Democrats in Congress penned an op-ed in the El Paso Times calling for immigration reform. "The time is now to make the move on immigration reform, and we support efforts to carry out this monumental task," they wrote.

Culled

•    Economic development group promotes Perry and business (Houston Chronicle): "Touted as an 'economic development' tool, TexasOne operates as a nonprofit corporation managed by the governor's office. [Rick] Perry appoints the TexasOne board, and the group's budget has no legislative oversight. The arrangement long has drawn criticism from Perry foes, who say it allows major corporate sponsors — who legally cannot give to his campaign accounts — to underwrite an operation that advances Perry's political career and lifestyle as much as it promotes the state's business climate."

•    Texas redistricting appeal likely on hold at Supreme Court (San Antonio Express-News): "A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether to hear Texas' appeal in a redistricting case is likely to be delayed until the justices rule on a different voting rights case, lawyers involved in the Texas battle said Friday."

•    TxDOT director Phil Wilson offers support for 'infrastructure fund' to boost state highway construction (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas Department of Transportation officials once again sounded the siren last week on funding woes, reiterating at the legislative session’s first transportation committee meetings that the agency needs a $4 billion annual infusion. And while TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson stopped short of discussing the myriad suggestions for boosting his agency’s $10 billion annual budget, he offered written support for one proposal making the rounds: creating a state infrastructure fund for transportation."

Quote of the Day: "Last week might have been good time for me to take my advice on not reading NYT." — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Twitter, presumably referring to being dubbed the GOP's "nasty newcomer" by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni (the same day the Times ran a story about Cruz's aggressive style)

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