Saturday, September 24, 2011

At the Texas Tribune Festival Race and Immigration Panels

#tribunefest #tfrace  Spent today at the Texas Tribune Festival, where they had a track on race and immigration in Texas.  The first panel I attended focused on Criminal Justice and Illegal Immigration.  The panelists agreed that border security was important, but it was also important to focus on comprehensive immigration reform. Several panelists agreed that a guestworker program would help in terms of being able to keep tabs on immigrants (as long as it didn't  take away American jobs), and that more cooperation between federal, state and local governments would help the security situation. Linda Graybill from the ACLU stated that we need smart policies that are constitutional, and that don't erode rights.  Charles Foster argued that by cutting off legal immigration options for Mexico and Latin America we created the current illegal immigration problem and that comprehensive immigration reform would encourage circular migration and allow homeland security to track immigrants.  Henry Cuellar emphasized that the security situation at the border (at least on the U.S. side) was not as bad as it is made out to be, according to FBI statistics.  He concluded that immigration has become an emotional issue and politics needs to be taken out of it.

Former ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Garza, had similar comments.  His session was focused on why Mexico and the U.S. need each other.  He argued that the economies are converging and that the political class has not kept pace with the realities of the marketplace, "Politics is the lagging indicator, markets and capital are the leading indicator.  We have a strategic interest in a more prosperous and secure Mexico."

On immigration:  "how we talk about it is important!  We have issues of security, we want to get a grip on who is in this country, and an aggressive guestworker program would help. The Bush initiative was good, but now the issue is toxic, amnesty is a death knell for any legislation, even though it wasn’t amnesty.  We need to build out from a guestworker program. Allowing people to have documents is important – we’ve lost circularity.  A path to citizenship wasn’t as critical as being legitimately in the workforce without fear of being rounded up."

More tomorrow!

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