All posts by The Monitor Editorial Board

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.

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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.”

EDITORIAL: Evaluating 2017 immigration policies and 2018 goals

In 2017, President Donald Trump took office and pledged to the American people that U.S. immigration policies would be substantially reformed and illegal entries into the United States would stop under his administration. Most importantly, he pledged to American workers that they would get their jobs back from those who were here illegally and drawing paychecks, and that he would build a wall on the Southwest border — right through the Rio Grande Valley — to deter further illegal immigrants.

His brash tone and divisive rhetoric played to the political right and working-class Americans who had felt alienated and abandoned under Barack Obama’s administration. But it has also alienated Mexico, one of our most important trading partners. To date, renegotiations with the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada remain stalled and greatly threaten the economic stability of our region.

But there is no mistaking that Trump has delivered on his word to deter illegal immigration in the United States. Whether because of fear of arrest or deportation, the number of arrests of immigrants decreased dramatically in fiscal 2017, during Trump’s first year in office.

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EDITORIAL: Unfortunate DACA ‘pawns’ in DC budget battle showdown

As lawmakers in Washington wrangle over an omnibus spending bill that will continue to fund the federal government past midnight Friday, it’s unfortunate and short-sided to throw into those negotiations questions over what to do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants.

These should be two completely separate issues. The fate of the 800,000 youth — including 200,000 in Texas who were brought here illegally as children and whose program President Donald Trump has said will end beginning next year — should not be used as pawns in this fiscal fight.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, in a conference call with media Wednesday blamed Democrats for inflicting DACA youth into this spending fight, saying: “As we work to give these DACA participants greater clarity in these uncertain times, I think the last thing that our Democratic colleagues should do is threaten to shut down the government and punish 320 million people, not to mention our military and those serving in harm’s way. That would be completely irresponsible action.”
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EDITORIAL: The risks of walking out today for Dreamers

There is an undeniable soft-spot that many have toward Dreamers — those who were brought here illegally as children through no fault of their own and who bring with them much promise to our country’s future, if we allow them to stay.

They were reared in our culture. They attend our schools. Most speak our language. They work beside us and they serve in our military forces. They represent the best and the brightest and they are some of the most driven young people in America today.

That is why it seems so incongruous and a contradiction of their very character for them to hold a nationwide “youth walk out day” today to bring attention to their cause.

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EDITORIAL: Feds: Keep studying RGV before building a wall

That a top administrator for the Department of Homeland Security came to the Rio Grande Valley and spent two days touring the Rio Grande Valley — and in particular the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is where a border wall is proposed to be built — is significant.

While we appreciate that the acting under secretary for science and technology, William Bryan, and several members of his staff took the time to come and study the terrain and this unique and absolutely beautiful Alamo preserve, which is home to so much flora and fauna, we are concerned that it could signal the administration is closer to starting plans for a border wall at this national preserve and regional jewel.

Hopefully their tour has given them a better understanding of how a border wall at this site could destroy wildlife and the habitat that supports it.

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EDITORIAL: Detainment of disabled child by Border Patrol should ‘shock us’ all

The detainment by U.S. Border Patrol agents of a 10-year-old disabled girl, who is in this country illegally, from her Corpus Christi hospital room following emergency surgery this week, is an unconscionable and short-sighted act.

The child, who has cerebral palsy and developmental delays that put her on mental par with a 4-year-old, is now facing deportation and is left to recover from surgery in a federal facility without her parents. It brings to light a bigger threat to all immigrant families who might try to cross a checkpoint seeking medical help in the future, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, told us.

That federal agents would take the child from her family and send her to a federal facility for unaccompanied minors who come to this country illegally, directly conflicts with orders from her physician. Her doctor wrote in hospital discharge papers this week that the girl should be released to her family’s care, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.

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