We're liveblogging the sessions from the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival's Immigration track. The sessions include panels on border security, Latinos and the Republican Party, the comprehensive immigration reform debate, and what to do with the DREAMers.
Featured speakers include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson; U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, Pete Gallego, Beto O'Rourke and Marc Veasey; state Sen. José Rodríguez; state Rep. Jason Villalba; and Texas Workforce Commissioner Hope Andrade.
Look below for highlights of the weekend's sessions, which are being held on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
With: Henry Cuellar, David Dewhurst, Steve McCraw, Beto O’Rourke, Todd Staples and Julián Aguilar (mod.)
The panel is starting with introductions! Don't forget to use our hashtags #tribunefest and for this track #TTFimmigration.
The panel is beginning with introductions! Don't forget to use our hashtags #tribunefest and for this track #TTFimmigration.
Aguilar asks McCraw about the role and power of the National Guard at border. McCraw says they can see the activity "detect and report" anything illegal to border patrol officers, although they do not have arresting abilities. In response to McCraw's stats on the decrease of undocumented people crossing the border in the last 11 weeks.
On Texas' border safety compared to the rest of the country, Dewhurst says it is at greater risk for violent activity, which has resulted in thousands of violent crimes.
On the threat of ISIS terrorist groups using the Texas-Mexico border to enter the country, O'Rourke says homeland security has notified that there is no real threat of ISIS or any other similar group are present at the border, and that these claims of having no security hurt the near by communities. It deters job growth and confidence in the area.
Cuellar says border security is about more than security on the ports of entry, and should also involve working with Mexico and Central American officials to solve the problem from both ends.
On Dewhurst's letter to Mexican officials on Sept. 11, Dewhurst says the claims by Mexican officials that the security issue was a political move was dead wrong.
On the National Guard, Cuellar says although he was against the idea of bringing in the guard but once they were down there he supported them in their efforts. He says the claim of security issues disregard the fact many kids and families are turning themselves in.
Dewhurst says the issue is looking to closely at smaller issues at certain cities rather than the larger issue of keeping the entire border safe to stop illegal immigration. O'Rourke asks if the best way is to have a border patrol officer every other foot, tanks lined up or an alligator filled moat to secure the border 100 percent. Dewhurst says there is no way to secure it 100 percent.
Cuellar says one of the things that has been discussed with Mexico is that the Mexico-Guatemala border is even more insecure with open crossings, that require Texas to play defense when those folks reach Texas.
O'Rourke says since border security is tied to immigrations, one can't move forward without the other. As long as immigration issues continue to be unresolved border security will be as well.
Cuellar says every time there is a problem at the border it is blamed on immigrants, who are being demonized. He says Laredo has a lower murder rate than Washington, D.C., but the public thinks it is extremely unsafe, which negatively impacts the communities because it deters professionals.
Audience question: should there be other intelligence like the FBI investigating the border because of the drug cartels rather than other agencies? McCraw says "it takes boots and it takes wing tips." Cuellar says to keep in mind that these organizations are cross-national and act differently where they are, and need to fight it with the other countries involved.
Audience question: Abbott mentioned that an ISIS agent was successfully captured at the border, but O'Rourke says it is false, who is right? O'Rourke says those claims are longstanding fears not specific to ISIS and false. Staples says that several Ukrainian people have been detained at the border this year.
Audience question: Increase in women and children crossing, will the detention center change any to accommodate them? O'Rourke says they are really more like deportation centers. He says they are fleeing violence and trying to reunite with family here, and they need to have the most humane treatment.
Audience question: What is Texas doing to let Homeland Security and the other states that we will never be able to build a wall to keep people in or out, what is the holistic answer? Cuellar says a wall is a 18th century solution to a 21 century problem.
With: Hope Andrade, George Antuna, Jerry Morales, Aaron Peña, Jason Villalba and Alexa Ura (mod.)
First question - how can the GOP reconcile with Latinos when unfavorable rhetoric is used, term like the RGV being "third world." Villalba says Hispanics are Republicans, they just don't know it yet.
On inclusion and representation in government, Morales says getting involved in politics started for him while working although it took up a lot of time, because it was eed to see the representation. Now as Mayor of Midland it takes up all his time.
Andrade said it is up to the hispanic politicians to be out and present in the community so they can see republican do look like them, especially if there is not politics in the home.
Ura says you can't talk about Latinos without talking about immigration, is there a push to change the tone of the GOP platform? Villalba says it is problematic and they have their work cut out the change it. He says it is hard to go on the road and say we are inclusive when the platform doesn't.
Antuna says back in the day Latinos were working in meat packing plants and agriculture for a living but today's youth that are coming over here to work are not looking for that kind of work.
On young Latinos and social issues, Pena says there is a boom of hispanic republicans who are socially liberal, if we are going to win we need to be tolerant of other mindsets to over come it. He says young people don't have the stigma attached to saying they are conservatives, that previous generations had.
Villalba says the party has an issue attracting young people in general not just with Latinos. He says there will be trouble short term but long term there "will be thawing" in social issues, like marriage equality for gay couples. He says the "life issues" in regards to abortion is not as decisive of an issue with young people.
On health care and medicare expansion. Morales says in Midland has kept itself going without looking for help elsewhere but nonprofits are helping the community. He says they are going outside of the box to recruit doctor to work in the area to have a diverse network. He say the challenge is growing. Villalba says we should expect expansion in the next legislative session, and will continue to push for a block grant.
On the Texas Dream Act of in-state tuition for undocumented students, Pena says we won't see a repeal but rather changed in the upcoming session. Andrade says it needs to continue but the concern should be making sure the young graduates in the program stay in Texas.
Audience question: On State Board of Educations move to push for Mexican American studies in public schools. Pena says it should be an option for students, while communities and student should not be mandated to do it. He says the history should be taught in its whole truth good or bad but if concentrated, it should be an elective.
Audience question: What are the plans to push party on Texas Solution? Villalba says strong voices in favor of it will filter through the rest of the party, and a small group pushed it out. He says next time there will be a need to push it within the party and out in the communities. He says if they fail to lose the latinos the party will fail. Antuna says more latinos in government will help that effort, "if you're not at the table you are on the menu."
Audience question: Are we missing the millennials, as non-catholics or are less "culturally" hispanic? Pena says most are seeing themselves as "Americans" but if people identify as "hispanic" they are. He says demographics show we will all be the same pretty soon, and it is a fading issue among young people.
Audience question: Why would you support Dan Patrick because of his use of the term "illegal" rather than undocumented? Villalba says the first thing to do as a party is recognize they are people. He says Patrick would likely regret his phrasing because Patrick cares strongly about the issues. Andrade says some people do not realize what terms are offensive and "it is up to us to speak up" and correct the mistake.
Audience question: On outreach to young Latinos and voter ID, what can be done to let GOP know that voter ID law hurt Latinos? Antuna says there is a definite problem with voter fraud and there is no reason why you could have an ID to show when you vote. Andrade says it is all about protecting the process. She says it can be offensive to assume Latinos would not be able to get ID needed to vote. She says the real issue is making sure every one who needs on can get one easily. She says on the ground that is not an issue hurting Latinos.
With: Eddie Aldrete, Pete Gallego, Ali Noorani, José Rodríguez and Julián Aguilar (mod.)
On the issue of a need for labor, Aldrete says Congress is stuck between immigration and border security. He says because of labor shortages, there should be more of a push to bring in talent than focusing on security to keep folks out.
Aguilar asks if immigrants here want full-on citizenship or just want to be here safely and
work without citizenship? Rodriguez says want they want is an opportunity to have a good life for themselves and for their families, based on studies and research. He says immigrants are key to the Texas economy.
Aguilar asks if towns with large numbers of undocumented immigrants are safer because they are avoiding getting in trouble and getting caught? Noorani says it is more than not wanting to get in trouble but that the local law enforcement have a relationship with those communities. He says that trust help with reporting crimes when they happen.
Aldrete say having more people here as citizens, “who takes better care of a home a renter or an owner?” and says that citizens have a greater interest in the future of the country.
Noorani says the argument that wages are pushed down by paying undocumented workers less should create more of a push to have everyone paid a legal wage because it would even the playing field to pay everyone more fairly.
Gallego says the military is an important pathway for immigrants to become citizens that is often ignored. He says the spouses of these service people should be better served to become a citizens and that it is an active veteran issue. Noorani says many of the families of these immigrants are undocumented and have difficulty going through the legal process.
Aldrete says border patrol officers cannot tell if someone crossing the border is a landscaper or a doctor and there is concern that their focus will be on a landscape when someone more dangerous could be passing through.
On more border patrol agents per mile, Gallego says something can be done but many in Washington D.C. do not understand the border. He says there is a common interest for safety and a law enforcement presence but there is negative impact on business as a result of it now. The delays on the bridges is hurting. The solution has to fit what the border has become accustomed to with business across the river.
Rodríguez says there should be no more boots on the ground, it is nonsense. He says those who live on the border feel safe or run into immigrants that are security threats. He says claims of violence and terrorist threats are distractions from pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.
On unaccompanied minors and the misinformation they had to get into the country, Noorani says the misunderstood policy was in place for years before the influx but it increased dramatically when the cartels realized there was a money making opportunity to move children through Mexico into the U.S. that became a criminal enterprise.
Rodríguez says to expect more anti-immigrant legislation in upcoming legislative session, unless it lines up with other agendas. He says “you will need to be prepared to come and storm the Capitol.”
Gallego says the reason for not repatriating certain people here is to not put people back into a dangerous environment for the same reason why victims of domestic violence should not be put back into dangerous situations. He says maybe some should be labeled refugees but that requires knowing why they are here and why they want to stay.
Audience question - On the issue of undocumented immigrants who have overstayed legal visas as an invisible issue, Gallego says it is shocking that there is no good way set up to track that information which should be in place.
Aldrete says we are reaching a point with law enforcement that people will not be able to cross the border in a day and slow down business.
Audience question: how to deal with cartel backlash if smuggling is stopped? Gallego says when one product stops selling they will start selling another one. He says there is a relationship between the two nations that prosecuting these criminals is easier than before. He says there are fewer Mexican people feeling the need to come to Texas because of a strengthening middle class, while the influx of people has come mostly from other central American countries, if they have a reason to be home they will stay home.
Rodríguez says there is a need for social change, along with financial backing and law enforcement, so that the cartels do not have such a strong recruitment. He says if the youth have better alternatives to the cartel for employment and safety, things will begin to change.
With: Jorge Baldor, Veronica Escobar, Gaby Pacheco, Jerry Patterson, George Rodriguez, Marc Veasey and Manny Fernandez (mod.)
Legislation dubbed the Texas Dream Act, crafted in June 2001, gave in-state tuition to undocumented student for public universities.
Pacheco describes the Dreamers as a group of 2.1 million who came as children younger than 16 years old.
Veasey says the dreamers are taught in our public school and should be allowed to keep going with schooling.
Rodriguez says the U.S. need to stop being a magnet for people of other countries and remove the emotion from the sob stories of wanting to come to this country. He said “what part of illegal do you not understand.”
Patterson said “If you take your child with you to rob a bank, should your child be arrested for the crime.” He says even if they are here illegally they broke no laws in coming here as children.
Rodriguez says the children brought in illegally are “contraband.”
Patterson asks Rodriguez if they should just be deported. Rodriguez says yes. Rodriguez says if they would be good for our country they would be just as good in their in countries. Patterson responds that would be millions of people.
Patterson says more boots on the ground is bad. Rodriguez wants him to repeat that. Patterson says too many federal officer are bad, while local law enforcement have their place.
Pacheco says while here, undocumented immigrants can’t opt out of paying sales taxes and she would “get in line” if it were an option. Her immigration status is halted, despite renewals.
Rodriguez says the black community would side with Republicans on the issues of immigration. Veasey says President Barack Obama has done a good job bringing awareness of the issue. Veasey says it needs to be seen as a global issue not a specifically Latino issue, because immigrants in different parts of the country look differently, come from different places and are not all Latinos.
Baldor says the investment in these students through the public school system is lost if they do not continue their education here. He says they are such a small percentage of students and are non-voting so they are being bullied and picked on. Rodriguez says the reality that the laws are fine but there is no enforcement of them. Rodriguez says businesses are not being fined to hire undocumented immigrants and it becomes a magnet for people looking for an opportunity.
Baldor reminds the panel that this is financial a issue for students that have already been admitted to a university. Baldor says it is not an issue of merit, they have earned their spot but the question is whether they pay in-state or out-of-state tuition, while they are Texas residents.
“They don’t need a boot, they need a hand,” Baldor said.
Patterson says defending the immigration system is wrong because it is broken. He says there shouldn’t be the same number of people allowed access to the country from Mexico and Iceland, because of their population difference and proximity.
Rodriguez says if there was no employment, undocumented people would go home.
Pacheco says it is a courageous move to leave home, while most people in poverty do not feel prompted to leave home. Pacheco disagrees that undocumented people would leave if there were not employment opportunities.
Rodriguez says the Tea Party is very focused on repealing the Dream Act because the represent the majority of Americans, “not among blacks, not Latinos, but all Americans.”
Veasey says immigration reform would pass through Congress today and be signed by the President, but Speaker John Boehner would not let it on the floor, so nothing will happen with it. Veasey says the inflammatory rhetoric gives misinformed awareness.
Rodriguez says the Republicans are not the problem, the Democrats who run on the idea of defending this as a Latino issue, when Patterson already said this is an issue for all immigrants. Pacheco says it is a problem in both parties.
Pacheco says Texas should be proud to have lead the nation in allowing in-state tuition for dreamers. Pacheco says 21 states have followed. Pacheco says states continue to realize it is a “good thing” economically among other reasons.
Audience question: Why is it okay for the government to take “illegal money” from the undocumented students tuition? Rodriguez says they are already here, they should be paying something.
Audience question: What are three ways the dreamers are hurting the country?
Rodriguez says they are not necessarily hurting the country, but they should go back and get in line and do it the right way.
Audience question: Pacheco, what would you do if you were given citizenship?
Pacheco says she would like to serve on a jury, would not pass up an opportunity to vote and be a public servant.
Pacheco says the change needs to come from Congress. Rodriguez says they work for the public they should not be making the decision, we should.