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.

Texas jobs and dreams

President Barack Obama announced this month that 2014 was the best year of job growth since 1999. And here in South Texas, we are seeing very similar results.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, in the McAllen, Edinburg, Mission metropolitan statistical area the unemployment rate dropped from 10.3 percent in November 2013 to 8.2 percent last month. During the same time period, the cities of McAllen and Edinburg’s unemployment rates dropped considerably. McAllen went from 6.5 percent last year to 5 percent this year; Edinburg went from 6.8 percent in 2013 to 5.5 percent this year. Our nation, our state and our region of South Texas are all seeing a positive trend in the increase of employed residents. I firmly believe that education and bolstering our workforce is the key to successfully lowering unemployment rates.

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It comes down to economics: Reforms to immigration legislation should start with more guest workers

On a dusty, mesquite-filled ranch in San Manuel, 20 miles north of the Edinburg courthouse, rancher Arcadio Rafael “Felo” Guerra, 67, shows strangers where he has had to replace sections of his 7-foot-high game-proof wire fence throughout his vast property due to a surge of immigrants crossing illegally on his lands.

A lifelong resident here, he’s never had to lock his doors before. But this past year, he said, more and more people have trespassed on his ranch lands and have even entered his offices west of Highway 281. He points to numerous sections of fence he’s fixed at $500 to $2,000 a pop; where human traffickers, known as coyotes, and immigrants have scaled and rammed fencing with cars and where they’ve abandoned vehicles while being chased on foot by law enforcement in what are called “bail outs.” He gestures to an area where a private plane recently crash-landed on his property and another spot where one morning he found five unaccompanied teenage boys and girls, part of the nearly 265,000 immigrants who have crossed into South Texas this year in an unprecedented surge.

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Sister Norma is my Texan of the year

Editor’s note: Each December, the Dallas Morning News newspaper accepts nominations for Texan of the Year. McAllen Monitor Editor Carlos Sanchez submitted this nomination, which was published in Dallas on Wednesday.

Her soft facial features make her easily approachable for those who wish to talk, but the kind of conversation that Sister Norma Pimentel has been engaged in much of this year can only be described as disquieting.

As executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Sister Norma, as she is fondly called, has been spearheading the humanitarian relief effort for the surge of Central Americans illegally crossing our international border into South Texas.

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Fixes needed to federal immigration court system

Inside the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Courtroom No. 3 in Harlingen earlier this month, 17-year-old Jose David Navarro-Menjivar sat before Judge Eleazar Tovar in a chair that was visibly too big for the teen. Wearing a bright red jacket, neat haircut and infectious smile, the undersized teen from Honduras answered questions respectfully with the aid of a court-ordered interpreter. He said he has an uncle in the United States and he requested reunification with him rather than deportation back to Central America.

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