Broken borders, Broken system

A multi-part series of editorials and columns regarding the issue of immigration reform.

When a surge of Central Americans descended on the Rio Grande Valley to cross into this country illegally in the summer of 2014, the cries to ‘Seal our border,’ and ‘Reform immigration’ reverberated across the country. The Monitor quickly determined that, beyond the rhetoric, many of those screaming the loudest had few specific policy recommendations to fix the problem. The Monitor editorial board began talking to law enforcement, policymakers, human rights activists, local readers and the immigrants themselves in search of answers. This series represents the culmination of at least six months of research and interviews with scores of people. It is presented on these pages in the hopes of spurring discourse about one of the most significant public policy debates to visit our country and our region in decades.

EDITORIAL: Lacks Congress isn’t working on DACA or immigration reform because the pressure is off

As attention turned to Texas last week for the nation’s first electoral primary after President Donald Trump took office, a deadline passed Monday with virtually little mention: The end of the program that protected hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in this country.

Federal court rulings, essentially backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, forces the Trump administration to keep issuing renewals under this program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But the executive branch of government is intent on abolishing this program, so no one should take DACA for granted. And although the reprieve given by a federal district judge in California applies to Dreamers who are seeking an additional two-year work permit; it does not apply to those seeking a work permit for the first time. And, thus the program is now closed to thousands.

While we have steadfastly supported the idea of allowing Dreamers to stay in this country legally, we have also expressed support for President Trump’s admonitions, when his administration announced the end of this program last September and that Congress should come up with a permanent solution for Dreamers.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: Lacks Congress isn’t working on DACA or immigration reform because the pressure is off

EDITORIAL: We must be home to all of our brave

Theoretically, soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War were not U.S. citizens. But they did so for what they hoped would be their new country, and for the love of it.

In 2018, this theory is still just as relevant as there are thousands of noncitizen soldiers who fight and serve in our U.S. military for our nation — a nation that they should be allowed to legally call their home.

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., prepare to take up immigration reform — which they have promised they will begin to do after passing a budget bill — preparing a path forward for citizenship, and reducing deportation of these servicemen and women should be a priority.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: We must be home to all of our brave

EDITORIAL: The true definition of ‘chain migration’

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., this week have debated over yet another stop-gap funding measure to keep the government running (or not,) once again the issue of Dreamers — children brought illegally to this country whose quest for U.S. citizenship has drawn harsh political divisions — have been bantered about as Republicans and the president openly mislead the public about U.S. immigration laws.

This feels like a repeat act in a bad play as our nation found itself in this very position just a few weeks ago, which resulted in a brief federal government shutdown.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: The true definition of ‘chain migration’

EDITORIAL: Questions on Trump’s DACA/border wall plan abound

When President Donald Trump earlier this month told lawmakers to bring him a deal for solving the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and said he would sign it, we were hopeful. But then he reneged on his word.

Then suddenly last week Trump announced that he was in favor of some type of “earned” pathway to citizenship for youth who were brought here illegally under no fault of their own, and his administration released a list of ways this could be accomplished, which include a $25 billion border wall, chain migration limits and ending the Visa lottery.

We again are hopeful, but also skeptical, confused and worried.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: Questions on Trump’s DACA/border wall plan abound

EDITORIAL: Congress must find a DACA solution

The number of Dreamers — immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children — vary from 690,000 to 800,000, depending upon who is talking about them and whether they want sympathy for them, or not.

On a Tuesday morning media call, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, cited the former and blamed Democrats for shutting down the federal government in order to force Congress to enact immigration reform for just 690,000 Dreamers — at the expense of funding our U.S. military and helping Americans affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

“Their strategies were to extract a promise for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) but the shutdown was not the only hostage they took: disaster funding; year-long funding for military … and the spending cap,” Cornyn said. “These have received no action and I believe clearly because of the DACA impasse.”

Continue reading EDITORIAL: Congress must find a DACA solution

EDITORIAL: Don’t mix immigration with 2020 Census

While the number of undocumented people living in the United States is often debated and needs to be better quantified, getting that information via the 2020 Census is not the way to do it.

Doing so would jeopardize the decennial Census, which already is being threatened by budget and personnel cuts and technology changes. Adding a citizenship question would likely result in many more people not being counted. This includes those who are afraid of being identified by the federal government and targeted for deportation, and that could be a significant number of people in the Rio Grande Valley.

Continue reading EDITORIAL: Don’t mix immigration with 2020 Census

EDITORIAL: Congressman pushing back for RGV on immigration

When U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, pushed back against President Donald Trump last week opposing a border wall during a private meeting at the White House, he did so with the experience of being from the Rio Grande Valley and knowing what a wall would do to our local economics, and his belief that there are better ways to deter illegal immigration.

Their Jan. 9 exchange, captured on videotape, shows despite numerous interruptions from Trump, Cuellar stood his ground and spoke his conscience to the president of the United States and his advisors on the realities of immigration reform, not hyped up hypotheticals.

That’s no easy task. We applaud Cuellar’s courage. We also congratulate him for being the only congressman from a border region who was invited into the room for such critical immigration talks at such a critical time.

Unfortunately, the $25 billion border wall and the fate of 800,000 Dreamers in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) —which is to expire in March — are being used as pawns as Congress faces a potential government shutdown on Friday if a spending bill is not passed.

That’s unfair and most lawmakers engaging in this rhetoric do not fully understand the ramifications of a border wall, if it would deter illegal entries and how it would mar our region.

“I always get a kick out of people that go down and spend a few hours (in the RGG) and think they know the border better than some of us there,” Cuellar told Trump on Jan. 9. “We’ve lived there all our life. … I’ve asked them (Border Patrol chiefs), how much time does a wall buy you? It will save a couple minutes or a few seconds.”

He added that more drugs come through ports of entry and of the “11 million undocumented aliens, 40 percent of them came from Visa overstays, so they’re either coming by plane, boat or vehicles.”

Cuellar’s convincing plea earned this response from Trump: “We have a lot of really smart people in this room. Good people. Big hearts. They want to get it done. …. I think everybody wants a solution. You want it Henry. I want it.”

But when presented with a measure to resolve DACA, Trump deflected and refused to sign it.

At a press conference on Monday in McAllen, Cuellar said Republicans added about 20 other demands — including sanctuary cities, E-Verify and Kate’s Law, which would increase penalties for those who are deported and try to illegally return — getting both sides further away from an agreement.

“They wanted to add a whole bunch of stuff,” Cuellar told us. “What we want to do is take a slice and we thought the slice would be the easiest one: Dreamers. But it’s become very complicated because the president and his advisors want to add.”

Further complicating matters are Democrats to the far left and Republicans to the far right who are spurred on by opposing Hispanic groups and Tea Party activists that are fomenting such an environment that productive talks appear impossible.

That makes us all the more grateful for Cuellar, who appears to be emerging as the informed and level-headed middle man. Cuellar says a levee system has proved successful in Hidalgo County to aid in area drainage and help deter immigration, and he is willing to give his support for such a structure, if that compromise must be made. He also questions why 41 percent of Visa lotteries go to African nations at a time when so many want to flee dangerous Central American countries. And he pointed out that 90 percent of DACA participants are either in school, work or serve in the U.S. military and have proved themselves to be productive members of society who deserve a chance at the American Dream.

We agree. And we urge President Trump to invite Cuellar back to the White House for more talks — especially prior to Friday’s government shutdown deadline — and we hope he once again will allow the media to watch.

As Cuellar said: “Can we get a deal done before Jan 19? It’s possible if we stick to the plan we had at the White House.”