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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a nation of immigrants, and many Americans can trace their ancestry back to a grandparent or great-grandparent who came here from another country, excited by the American promise that hard work would lead to success. Families like mine that have arrived more recently are no different.
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.
When I see the images of Central American migrants now heading to the United States seeking asylum, I see people who are trying to escape extreme poverty and violence — people just like my parents. They are trying to survive; they want their children to live.
Our nation’s cross-section of faith-based and secular organizations are on standby, ready to take in more vulnerable people. Now it’s up to our government to step up and do the right thing.
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.
Immigrants have always made this country strong, and they will continue to. But only if we let them.
By galvanizing local support, my community and I were able to come together and create an impact that transcends borders. These immigrants need our support more than ever. It’s time for us to fight for justice and humanity.
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?
On a recent fact-finding mission to the U.S.-Mexico border, I was heartbroken that the stories of new immigrants are often much worse than we’ve heard. Along with a group of fellow veterans, I travelled to El Paso and Juarez to see the situation firsthand and meet the families that are being ripped apart on our border.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps this president might find more success with immigration reform — which both sides would likely agree is necessary — if he stopped attacking Democrats and instead looked to find common ground for meaningful, effective immigration reform that upholds core values Americans on both sides of the aisle share, like opportunity, equality and basic human decency.
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.
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.
If the administration’s goal is to punish migrants and steam roll them out of the United States, Port Isabel is an ideal prison to effectuate the president’s vision. But if this country wants to retain some semblance of respect for the people who have dared to seek a better life here, then turning to Port Isabel is ludicrous.
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 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.
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.
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.
Results from the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll illuminate how public attitudes provide the context for the political and policy responses of Texas’ elected leaders to President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration on the U.S.—Mexico border.
Tragically, the long-standing processes and programs that serve all of these vulnerable groups of refugees have come under attack over the past 18 months. And ironically, most of these programs were developed to help make the U.S. immigration process more orderly and manageable.
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.
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.
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.
While there may be merit in having the National Guard provide systems of support for Customs and Border Protection, the premises under which the troops were deployed were based on falsehoods about unauthorized persons and the immigrant community.
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.
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.
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.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn knows the urgency of this situation, and he knows the contributions Dreamers can make to our country if Congress gives them the chance. He’s acknowledged the only path forward is a narrow bill. That’s now been offered.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The simple fact is that you can't build a wall in the middle of a river. So the proposed border wall will be built up to two miles inland on Texas soil. It will place thousands of Texas acres, nature parks and even parts of towns on the Mexican side of the fence. In reality, it is sure to separate American citizens from America.
Children do not choose to become undocumented immigrants. The decisions made by their parents to bring them to the United States without legal documentation should not be held against them.
Could you stand in my shoes and tell my students, who have only known the U.S. as home, that they don't belong in this country?
The nativist posturing of President Donald Trump and Texas’ enactment of Senate Bill 4 have caused fear and great anxiety for Latinos in the United States.
No other governor in modern Texas history has had the same hardline stance on refugee resettlement as Gov. Greg Abbott. But one other dealt with a refugee crisis as polarizing and tumultuous: Bill Clements.
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.
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.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in conversations about policy and the system as a whole, but we cannot forget that how we choose to address immigration as a country is also personal: It directly affects the lives of millions of people.
This isn’t about decorum. I’m a sailor; I can take the salty language. This is about whether we sit idly or stand up in the face of ethnic scapegoating, racial profiling and abusing the power of the state to intimidate the less powerful.
The state's new anti-sanctuary law will allow local law enforcement and other government officials to inquire about a person’s immigration status during unrelated interactions. This turns every interaction with a government official into a potential cause for deportation.
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.
One can conclude that the new anti-sanctuary cities law oppresses undocumented immigrants. The far-right members of the Texas Legislature seem set towards further persecuting a group of people whose presence benefits a number of huge labor-intensive industries in Texas from agriculture to energy, and their actions are gaining notice.
When I saw you, my thoughts went back to something that happened to my own ancestors many years ago, during slavery — when families were torn apart, children were sold and taken away from their families. Husbands and wives were separated.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
In looking to build a Texas that leads the country with a strong economy, we must ensure we’re giving children strong starts. Separating children from their families will not only inhibit children’s healthy development but incur long-term costs to Texas citizens for untreated mental health issues.
Regardless of one’s policy views, it’s important to understand that border wall litigation will be protracted and expensive, driving up the ultimate cost of the wall, likely to be borne by American taxpayers. Indeed, no matter the results of each trial, the government will owe money to the landowner — the question is just how much.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Texas residents may feel safer as a result of this destructive legislation, but it will not be long before they will also feel the consequences of a vanishing immigrant community in terms of higher prices, labor shortages and a stagnating economy.
This executive order also undermines America's principles of fair and equal treatment of all people around the world regardless of race, religion or country of origin — core tenants of the U.S. Constitution and the founding of our country.
We cannot allow local governments to pick and choose the laws they want to enforce.
Two months before Houston became a "Welcoming City," Interim Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman quietly renewed the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement to screen for undocumented immigrants using the Immigration and Customs Enforcement database.
With a Trump presidency and Republican-controlled Congress committed to securing the border, the question must be asked: Why should the Texas Legislature be in the border security business at all?
Sanctuary policies endanger public safety, fuel illegal immigration, waste millions of dollars and conflict with federal law.
The thousands of compassionate Texans who have helped resettle refugees for over four decades in the Lone Star State — citizen volunteers, people of faith, community groups and social service professionals — will not abandon them in their hour of need.
Our nation needs the political courage necessary to ensure America's borders are secured in a way that stops the drug traffickers, human smugglers, waves of illegal immigrants and, God forbid, terrorist infiltrators from taking advantage of this vulnerable situation.
History will harshly judge mass incarceration of Central American refugees. Texans should not stand by as it takes place in our backyard.
Immigrants like me continue to see opportunity in the inspiring words of the Declaration of Independence. But those same words can also represent a big obstacle toward making the United States a welcoming country.
The reflexive anger some people have toward immigration is easy to understand, but it doesn't really comport with reality.
By guaranteeing a taxpayer-subsidized attorney for their civil proceeding, Sen. Harry Reid's new bill would effectively give illegal immigrants greater rights than citizens.
Pope Francis, who will visit Ciudad Juárez on Wednesday, has decreed 2016 the Jubilee Year of Mercy. With all the unpleasant politics and xenophobia rampant in Texas today, our state leaders could stand to be more merciful.
Today marks the first anniversary of President Barack Obama’s immigration actions. For me, the anniversary is personal.
The statistics do not lie: During the last two decades, Texas has experienced a material increase in human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and drug-related homicide as a direct result of increased illegal immigration.
One reason for Texas' success is our hardworking and productive immigrant population — a fact Gov. Greg Abbott not only ignores but seeks to distort for political purposes.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution makes clear that Texas has an obligation to make sure all children who are born in this state have a birth certificate issued shortly after birth — even those of undocumented immigrants.
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.”
Texas celebrates ethnic diversity and empowers newcomers to become prosperous citizens. In the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers should oppose any bills that seek to change that.
The state's approach to securing the border is the very definition of throwing money at a trumped-up issue that helps politicians win elections but serves no public policy purpose.
A federal judge's decision to block President Obama's immigration actions has left the lives and dignity of real Texans hanging in the balance. Here are two of their stories.
Complicated politics, challenging policy and changing demographics — that's immigration in Texas. And that's why we're in for another interesting legislative session this year.
With Congress refusing to fix a broken system, now is the time to make the American dream a possibility for hard-working immigrants, as it was made possible for me nearly three decades ago.
With the stroke of his pen, President Obama has managed to unilaterally tear a fissure in our country's constitutional foundation.
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.
Only five years after the Obama administration did the right thing and ended the barbaric practice of detaining families at Texas' T. Don Hutto Residential Center, we return to our unfortunate past.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has woven a tapestry of small lies and half-truths into a full-cloth fabrication about immigration and the border.
As the mayor of Rio Grande City, I've seen firsthand how the recent influx of immigrants has overwhelmed local law enforcement. We need all the help we can get.
Congress is ready to act on the still-festering border crisis, but the president and Democrats won’t let us. And the thousands of children at risk of abuse and violence are bearing the burden.
There’s a human cost to Congress' and the president's inaction on our immigration woes. I’ll keep pushing for a fast, fair process that brings children home to their families as soon as possible.
I admit that my views about immigration are complicated — influenced by tragedy and terror. But I know that we fear what we don't understand. And we as Americans must now seek to understand.
The deployment of National Guard troops to the border was the right decision, and I have complete faith in our military forces. But as border woes mount, we must remember the lessons of the past.
Our immigration system is overwhelmed and needs to be fixed, but is there no place for mercy? People who just want a safe place to work and raise their families aren't a threat to our nation. They're an asset.
Call me a hypocrite, but I don't support amnesty for all. As an immigrant and owner of a successful restaurant, however, I realize that we all need a helping hand sometimes. Here's how I would change the system.
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.
After letting the crisis on the border fester for over a month, Washington is still barely doing anything to stem the tide of migrant children entering our country. Texas must act on its own now.
The humanitarian effort on the Texas border has thrust the Rio Grande Valley into the spotlight, but the media coverage hasn't told the whole story. Here's what it actually looks like on the ground.
Our diverse faith traditions teach us to welcome our brothers and sisters with love and compassion, regardless of their place of birth. Texas’ future is tied to how we help these new immigrants become a part of our story.
I was once hopeful for the future of the Texas GOP. But at our recent convention, the approval of a humiliating platform plank exposed the charlatans leading our party.
The defeat of the “Texas Solution” at the state Republican convention was a stunning victory for Tea Party activists — and a reminder to the GOP establishment that we won't back down.