Latest Columns

Oh no, hordes on the border!

Immigration is our story of origin, the heroic journey taken by our forebears, including those of the First Nations, whose ancestors had to cross the Bering Straits land bridge to get here. Immigration enlists all of the energy, imagination, and most of all, the courage and determination of those who undertake it when their present circumstances fall short. 

Welcome to the United States

Like most people, my wife and I have been following the news from the border with a mix of worry, outrage, and helplessness. Separated families. Human beings corralled behind fences and under bridges. Children dying. And no doubt, innumerable tragedies that never even make it into the news.

Keep families together and treat immigrants humanely

At first glance, it appears to be a thinly veiled political talking point aimed at smearing the border and immigrants, a message in support of the president's re-election campaign theme. But in the end, the only truly bipartisan element of the resolution passed by the Texas Senate addressed the need to treat immigrants with compassion and humanity.

Texas should encourage the right to vote — and protect voters from intimidation

Recently, state officials announced that a number of individuals voted in elections without the requisite citizenship, knowing the data was not yet reviewed or vetted. There is not a problem of non-citizens registering and voting in Texas — there is a data problem. Even worse, government officials purposely took advantage of that known data problem to plant doubt about the integrity of the voting system.

For me, immigration to the U.S. meant “winning the lottery”

The stereotypical immigrant/refugee to the U.S. — someone from Mexico or Central America — is only a part of the picture. Although Albanians like me don’t look like the “caravan” nomads clamoring at our southern border these days, I understand their desire for a better future and believe in their quest. It is no different than mine.

The magic of the Rio Grande

My family’s trajectory is in many ways the story of South Texas. Non-citizens becoming citizens and forming families that bear generation after generation of Americans. This is the magic of the Rio Grande. Lately, people want to build walls on this river where I grew up.

Alienation, legal process and our southern border

The federal government has just announced its latest salvo in its ongoing war on asylum seekers, proposing rules that would allow children to be held in immigration detention for prolonged periods of time. The rules would undermine our legal obligations to refugees and strike a particularly vulnerable population: asylum-seeking children.  

U.S. immigration politics don’t sync with American ideals

I believe it would be a privilege for the United States to accept these brave migrants — the men, women and children who have encountered rape, assault, robbery, miles of walking — all for the chance of being able to live and work here. They show up to the door of Casanicolás gentle, kind and grateful. What more could our nation ask of its potential citizens?

Ethical responsibility and pride in America

The mission of the Grannies was to travel to McAllen to shed light on the immigrant atrocities our current administration has created at the border. When children are caged in detention facilities that resemble concentration camps, when children are neglected and abused in these facilities, when their desperate parents are treated as criminals, in my book these are atrocities.

No one trained me for this

No one trained me for what I am doing as an immigration attorney in the family separation crisis: talking about horrific crimes against humanity in Central America and then learning the details of my own government’s purposeful actions to traumatize asylum-seekers.

Fear, hope and immigration

As an immigrant free from fear, I cannot stand idly as others are threatened and assailed. Immigrants, regardless of classification and throughout history, craft the American story. The greatest privilege I live with has been the ability to play one small part in it. I dream that many others may join this story too, free from fear and ferried by hope.

Are we keeping faith with international students?

Many of America’s influential leaders in business, government, industry, medicine and research began as international students; some worked long and hard to become citizens. The hubris required to think the country better off without such seekers is a particularly backward and dangerous one and would result in a needless and tragic loss.

Separated families and the urgency of the ticking clock

Toxic stress is about the ticking clock of persistent biological disruptions in the absence of a supportive caregiver. The biology of adversity, common sense and human decency all converge around two powerful conclusions: Reunite every child and parent immediately; and provide coordinated treatment for both of them together to begin to heal the damage that we have done.

We are better than this

We can still change the trajectory for the thousands of vulnerable immigrant children being apprehended at the border. Children should not be separated from their parents, and they should not be subjected to living in prison-like settings.

Abolitionist resistance and “zero tolerance”

Texans who are dispirited by recent immigration policy changes can be heartened by the moral courage of the abolitionists who came before them, resisting and even disobeying inhumane laws. They recognized the inequalities and injustices of their country, spoke out on behalf of the vulnerable and mobilized change — even if that change was still a long time coming.

A government attack on immigrant women and children

As a result of Trump’s executive order, women fleeing domestic violence will be incarcerated as they undergo interviews, file appeals, and attempt to make their case to immigration judges. And they now have a significantly lower likelihood of success, especially because most will proceed without legal representation.

Family values don’t stop at the border

Family unity is enshrined in international law, and the United States has protected this fundamental human right for decades. But we seem to have gone astray as the Trump administration separates immigrant children from their parents — a tactic employed to deter asylum seekers while at the same time creating leverage to fund a border wall in Congress.

Mothers and the resistance

So long as we still have our civil rights, we bear the patriotic responsibility to act and defy these gross human rights violations. Join a local protest and demand the immediate reunification of detained immigrant families and the end of family separations.

The long history of child detention

It seems clear that the Trump administration was caught thoroughly unprepared to implement its own “zero tolerance” policy. In the ensuing scramble to house children ranging in age from infants to adolescents, the administration has relied on hastily built tent cities, retrofitted WalMart stores and, most revealingly, existing facilities typically used to house juvenile offenders.

Taking care of kids — not separating them

The president’s order ending family separations is a good first step. But there will be more for our elected officials and everyday citizens to do. In the coming weeks, we will call on our neighbors and community members to participate in an advisory forum to lend their voices to help answer the question of where we go from here.

Public schools are no place for immigration enforcement

Distrust leads families to not send children to school, to volunteer or to interact with educators. Immigration enforcement in schools ultimately affects both citizen and undocumented families alike, as the increased likelihood of deportation and family separation forces an especially vulnerable population of children to deal with pervasive fear and uncertainty.

Mother’s Day in Dilley

When we incarcerate mothers, we incarcerate their families, their dreams and their aspirations for a better life. Detention is not the solution, and we have taken it upon ourselves to help more people understand that.

The new refugees

As a professor, researcher, and volunteer, I have met with hundreds of forced migrants from Central America and Mexico over the past decade. What I have learned is that they do not see that they had a choice in the matter; their survival and family well-being depended on getting away from cities like San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, Honduras or San Salvador, El Salvador.

ICE’s policy for detention of pregnant immigrants is a new low

Going out of its way to change a policy that saved taxpayer dollars and spared pregnant women the hardship of detention is a new low, even for this administration. It means that pregnant women will be less likely to find lawyers to represent them in court, to receive support from their family members and community and to access the medical care they need.

Everybody in Dallas came from someplace else

When the dean of the University of Michigan’s business school, (which now has a Sam Wyly Hall), asked me how his state can be more like Texas, I told him, “Texas is immigrant-friendly, whether you’re from New York, California or Timbuktu.”

In Texas, we are all America

Last year was marked by division and strife, but 2018 does not have to repeat this pattern. This year, let us all stand in solidarity with the survivors and refugees of war and genocide, and together make it a year of unity, cooperation and compassion.

A DACA solution would be good for Texas — and the country

Americans and Texans are tired of partisan gridlock and there should not be anything political about protecting individuals who are making positive contributions to the nation’s economy and communities throughout Texas. For that reason, we support the efforts of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, Sen. John Cornyn and others who are seeking to forge a bipartisan, permanent solution to the DACA issue.

Senseless delays on DACA decision harms students and schools

The story of Dreamers is the story of so many San Antonians before them — hopeful immigrants with a dogged determination to build a brighter future here, ambitious doers eager to contribute. And the story of San Antonio is the story of America — a land of immigrants whose contributions have enhanced its culture and boosted its prosperity.

Texans should take note of Virginia’s stand against hate

It is time for Texans to stand up against hate. We do not have to wait until next November’s gubernatorial election in our state. We can do it now by speaking out against Texas Senate Bill 4, the racial-profiling law that is being challenged in the courts, and other policies that have turned our state into Trump’s deportation machine.

We are failing our immigrant children

As Texans, we are failing our immigrant children. Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary cities bill signed into law this past session, places a burden on law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents. Similar to show-me-your-papers bills that were passed in Arizona and Alabama, SB 4 jeopardizes the trust between law enforcement and community members, instills fear and anxiety in children and their families, and is likely to have detrimental effects on the economic prosperity of our state.

Why we need to welcome refugees

Our divergent relationships with refugees have been on high-profile display even as we experience the largest waves of displaced people the world has seen in modern times — due in large measure to the tragic civil conflict in Syria. Yet as the U.S. and other world nations pause to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, one simple fact continues to be overlooked: We in America need to welcome refugees.

I can’t wait to see the state of Texas in court

If this sanctuary cities law goes into effect, Austin and other Texas cities will be forced to make our communities less safe. And we’re speaking out even though this new law would, incredibly enough, allow our state attorney general to remove local elected officials from office if they endorse a different policy, even one that’s in accordance with federal immigration law.

Critical links between health care and immigration in Texas

The passage of SB 4 alongside impending federal health care reform should wake up Texas’ health and immigration leaders to the very real implications of the intersections of their fields. These leaders should catalyze a lifesaving public dialogue to reform health care delivery and fight against dangerous health and immigration policies.

Arrogance of power at Texas Capitol must be stopped

As the Texas Legislature finishes the anti-sanctuary cities bill, Senate Bill 4, one question keeps going through my mind: When did it become so easy for the Republican-controlled leadership to ride roughshod over people like me and those who represent the interests of the Latino and immigrant communities?

A STEM skills day of reckoning

Yes, our immigration system is flawed and needs reform. Our elected representatives in Washington are right to want to improve and review federal programs to ensure they are working in the best interests of all Americans. But ignoring the needs of our economy by denying American companies access to global talent runs the risk of moving those jobs and even entire companies abroad — taking wages, tax base and innovation with them to competing markets.

What Octavio Paz can tell us about U.S.-Mexico relations today

Octavio Paz’s solution to American democratic problems was to return to the past. The U.S. has to recuperate its unity, which today, in this highly divided world, seems idealistic and complex. And America needs to return to “the origins, to the foundation of the nation. To recuperate the vision of its founders, not to copy them, but to make a new beginning.”

Keep Texans safe by securing the Mexican border

Enforcing immigration law is the responsibility of federal law enforcement, but that does not mean Texas officials should be limited to making a phone call and hoping federal agents show up in a timely manner. This session, the Legislature must give law enforcement officers the authority, under state law, to arrest, detain, and charge individuals who cross our Southern border illegally.

Family Court is no place for ICE

For ICE agents to detain someone in family court when she is seeking an order of protection against her abuser flies directly in the face of both the letter and the spirit of these laws and punishes the very victims these laws were designed to protect.

We used to talk about immigrants this way — nearly a century ago

When we turn our backs on refugees — in this present case, the Syrians who have suffered all the plagues of Job and more in the last few years — we commit an unpardonable act of inhumanity. We also weaken and degrade our country by falling victim to today’s version of Klanspeak, which seeks to demonize all immigrants who fall into certain religious or ethnic categories.

I, too, am America

Ours is just one of many success stories that make Texas and the U.S. what they are today. Immigrants and refugees like those trying to come to our cities now share similar struggles and aspirations. They are not trying to harm us; they seek to make America their home.

The audacity of Pope

Too often, politicians use religion to demonize certain ideas or people, but ignore what Pope Francis asks us to do, “protecting the vulnerable” and “committing ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.”

Real reform starts with more visas

The Pentagon last week extended a program designed to bolster our military with more foreign-born recruits. That's a good thing. But we need more new citizens in every occupation and at all skill levels if we want the U.S. to be able to compete.

We can do better, Gov. Perry

We can follow our conscience and calmly accept the migrant children on the border in their hour of need. Or we can do what the governor has done: sensationalize a humanitarian crisis and prey on fears.