Calling on Washington to fix the country’s “discriminatory” immigration system, Hispanic Republicans in the Texas Legislature also fired off the first salvos in what could be a divisive battle within the party over legislation aimed at challenging the country’s birthright citizenship law and benefits to children born to undocumented parents.
Just hours before the Texas Legislature’s bill-filing deadline on Friday afternoon, Rep. John V. Garza, R-San Antonio; Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg; Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi; Dee Margo, R-El Paso; and Jose Aliseda, R-Beeville, filed HCR 88, a nonbinding resolution that calls on the federal government to fix the country’s “broken immigration system” and cites current policies as “promoting illegal immigration and producing a class of vulnerable persons.”
In a statement released after the bill was filled, the Hispanic Republican legislators said they cannot support state legislation that punishes the children of immigrants, including those whose parents are here illegally.
"I cannot support any legislation which would result in Hispanic American citizens being treated as a ‘suspect class’ or attempt to remove any right from the US Citizen children of immigrants,” Garza said in the statement. “In America, children are never held liable for the unlawful actions of their parents.”
House Bill 292 filed by state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, if passed, would prevent a county's local registrar from issuing a birth certificate to a child born to undocumented immigrants in Texas. HB 293, also by Berman, seeks to eliminate benefits like public assistance and professional and commercial licenses, among other things, to children of undocumented aliens.
Garza and his Hispanic colleagues took their stand a day after Peña announced legislation that seeks to create a guest-worker program between Texas and Mexican states, a bill that could expand the debate over federal control of immigration laws and what state governments are allowed to do.
But Peña and Aliseda also expressed support for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples and his controversial website, on which farmers and ranchers on or near the border upload first-person narratives on the dangers they face. Some border lawmakers asked Staples to pull down the site last week after its message board included calls by some users for vigilante justice and booby traps on Texas farms. Aliseda said the public should acknowledge that illegal immigrants don’t just come to Texas to work. There are currently more than 5,000 in Texas prisons, including many charged with violent crimes.
The Hispanic legislators’ group is also throwing its weight behind so-called “anti-sanctuary city" legislation, indicating it will stand with its party on less draconian — though still controversial — immigration-related legislation.
HCR 88 also calls on Congress to focus more on immigration as an economic issue instead of pursuing a criminal justice strategy and to establish its own guest-worker system. Such a program, the group says, “would protect American workers from competition, but also allow non-citizen economic migrants to come out of the shadows, pay taxes and freely return to their country of origin.” A new system of immigration should analyze what role U.S. employers have in drawing workers from other countries here, and realize certain industries rely on labor provided mainly by migrants.