Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hispanic Republican legislator's approach to immigration

HCR 88 calls on Congress to establish a guest worker system which would protect first 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.

By State Rep. John V. Garza
for The Texas Insider
AUSTIN, TexasThe proliferation of immigration related legislation in the Texas Legislature and across the country is the direct result of the Federal Government’s unwillingness to address the immigration crisis. The power to regulate immigration is without question an exclusive federal power. But due to the federal government’s failure to provide an effective system of immigration, immigration enforcement and border security, state legislatures are left to deal with the effects.

HCR 88 calls on Congress to fix the broken immigration system and address immigration not only as a criminal law issue, but also as an economic issue. This resolution is joint and co-authored by eight (8) members of the Hispanic Republican Conference.

Additionally the resolution faults the current system of immigration for being discriminatory, promoting illegal immigration and for producing a class of vulnerable persons.

Such issues before the Texas Legislature include human tracking, added strain on Health Care and Educational system, employment verification, election integrity and border security.

One of the present flaws in our Federal and State approaches to immigration is that they view illegal immigration as solely a criminal law issue, ignoring its economic causes. As a South Texas Representative, I understand that illegal immigration is predominantly an economic issue. Economic migrants are pushed from their country of origin for economic reasons and drawn into the United States by economic opportunity. A new system of immigration should address the role US employers play in drawing immigrants into the country and the reality that certain sectors of the American economy rely on migrant workers for its labor force. The 1986 amnesty exemplifies what happens when this economic reality is ignored. Prior to amnesty illegal workers were concentrated in certain sectors of the economy.

Following amnesty, they moved into more desirable sectors of the economy leaving a void which was filled by subsequent waves of illegal immigrants. The resolution calls on Congress to establish a guest worker system which would protect first 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. Those with criminal intent hide among the economic migrants often exploiting them. Addressing the issue of economic migrants will free up law enforcement resources to concentrate on criminals and border security.

There are other problems with the current system of immigration. First and foremost, it has discriminatory country of origin classifications. As of March 2011, Mexicans and Filipinos must wait in excess of 18 years, while Europeans and others wait only 5 for VISA priority dates. HCR 88 calls on Congress to develop a more equitable system of immigration which eliminates country of origin preferences. Additionally, immigrants who have cut in line and violated American immigration laws should not be given amnesty, nor preferential treatment over immigrants who have honestly complied with our immigration laws and waited for an opportunity to immigrate.

All enforcement efforts must respect the civil rights of US Citizens and the US Citizen children of immigrants. “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. In America, children are never held liable for the unlawful actions of their parents.”

Cities which adopt policies against enforcement of immigration laws also contribute to the problem by providing sanctuary for illegal immigrants, employers who hire illegal workers and those who exploit immigrants.

Unfortunately, we can pass all sorts of state laws to try to address the issue and effects of illegal immigration but the reality is that none of them will correct one of the root causes of the problem, our out-dated system of immigration.

A new system of immigration must respect our national sovereignty but also our origins as a country of immigrants. It must provide for strict enforcement of the law, but also allow a means for needed labor in certain sectors of our economy. It must respect the human dignity of the immigrant, and give them a means to share in the American dream and discriminate against no immigrant because of their country of origin.

The following is a quote from President Ronald Reagan, “I . . . have thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land . . . [A]nd the price of admission was very simple . . . Any place in the world and any person from these places; any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here . . . I believe that God in shedding his grace on this country has always in this divine scheme of things kept an eye on our land and guided it as a promised land for these people.

Immigration is not a partisan issue. It is a people issue. And as an American and a descendent of immigrants, I believe that we must ensure that America remains a promised land. We need a new system of immigration to address the modern context of immigration, to ensure national security, to protect our economy, to be a welcoming nation and to allow 12 million people in this country to come out of the shadows, pay taxes and allow us to spend out precious tax dollars on fighting the criminal elements on the border.

I thank you for your consideration of this bill and I reserve the right to close.

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