The Trump administration has ushered in a time of unprecedented uncertainty for immigrants in Texas and across the United States. Join us in San Antonio (or watch online) for a symposium on immigration, where Texas Tribune reporters will interview lawmakers, advocates and immigrants on what the past several months have brought — and what we can expect next.
On Friday evening, Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza about the future of immigration. Here are three takeaways:
By the numbers: The panelists kicked off by laying the framework for — and correcting some misconceptions about — the status of immigrants in Texas: 17 percent of Texans are immigrants and 8 percent of Texans are undocumented. The conversation about Texas immigrants should not just be about Mexico, panelists emphasized:55 percent of Texas’ immigrants hail from Mexico, but the population as a whole is incredibly diverse, they said. And the underlying economic conversation should not be forgotten: During just this hourlong panel, Garza said, the United States and Mexico did about $45 million worth of commerce.
At the federal level: Both panelists came out in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to apply for renewable, two-year work permits and avoid deportation proceedings. Castro said Democrats may soon have leverage to push the program forward when Congress begins to debate a new budget or considers raising the debt ceiling.
Both Garza and Castro criticized Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along U.S.-Mexico border as ineffective. Garza said he “can’t imagine” Mexico paying for such a project, drawing audience laughter. And for the former ambassador, it doesn’t seem necessary: “Most of what needs to be built has already been built.”
Our southern neighbor: The Trump administration has frayed the relationship between the United States and Mexico but will not sever it, the panelists agreed. “I’m not going to pretend we’re at a great moment” of cooperation between President Donald Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico, Garza said. Still, he emphasized that the economic relationship between the two countries is strong enough to be sustained beyond any one administration.
“This relationship can withstand the Trump years,” Castro said. “But if you badger a country enough, they don’t have to buy their rice or their corn or their other products from Texas.”
Join us tomorrow for a series of panels exploring other immigration topics.What questions do you have on state and federal immigration policy? For our panelists? Tweet them to us with #AskTrib. Meanwhile, here’s a brief guide to some of the key issues we’ll be discussing.
9 a.m.: Immigration and the Legislature
At issue: a controversial state law many have described as a “show me your papers” regulation. Senate Bill 4, passed this year, attempts to outlaw “sanctuary cities” by allowing police to inquire about the immigration status of individuals they lawfully detain, and requiring local police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The law — which drew widespread protest across the state before it became law in May — has already generated a contentious legal battle, with many of the state’s biggest cities lined up against it in court. Key parts of the law were blocked before it would have gone into effect Sept. 1. But others provisions, including the detainer measure, stand. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the case last week.
10:15 a.m.: Immigration and the Trump Administration
Trump has yet to deliver on one of his loudest campaign promises, but the federal government has rolled out eight prototypes for a wall to be built on the border between the United States and Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will run a series of tests on those prototypes over the next two months. While many critics remain skeptical that the wall, with a projected price tag of $20 billion, will ever get built, some Texas lawmakers have taken steps to get it started.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this fall that he would reverse the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to apply for renewable, two-year work permits and avoid deportation proceedings. But that course was thrown into confusion when Trump gave Congress “six months to legalize DACA” (some assert that DACA is illegal because Obama implemented it by executive order). The president then promised “no action” would be taken during the six-month period, telling DACA recipients, “you have nothing to worry about.” Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in the country — some 120,000 of them in Texas — hang in the balance. Check out where the 38 members of Texas’ congressional delegation fall on the issue.
Negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement are set to begin Nov. 17. Trump has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if he can’t renegotiate it to the United States’ advantage, but some of his proposed changes have drawn criticism from business groups. Workers’ rights groups have argued that NAFTA disadvantages blue-collar laborers.
11:30 a.m.: The Human Cost of Immigration
Issues surrounding immigrant labor have only become more pressing in the weeks since Hurricane Harvey, as rebuilding efforts are likely to rely heavily on undocumented immigrants. The Pew Research Center estimated last year that 28 percent of Texas’s construction workforce is undocumented; other studies have put that number even higher. But federal immigration crackdowns have made some undocumented workers afraid to accept under-the-table work.
The question of immigrant education in Texas has long been a difficult one. A 2001 law allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Texas public universities, but this year, state lawmakers again debated repealing that provision. Opponents of the 2001 law made little headway this year.
1 p.m.: Screening of “Beyond the Wall”
Read related Tribune coverage:
Attorneys for the state of Texas are set to head back before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Tuesday to defend the state’s new immigration enforcement law. [Full story]