Monday, June 10, 2013

Discussion in Houston on immigration reform and Senator Cornyn pushes border security amendment

Zocalo Public Square held a discussion on the impact of immigration reform in Houston at Rice University last week:
Macarena Hernandez, Tony Payan, Angela Blanchard, Claudia Kolker

The wide-ranging discussion focused on the differences in the immigration debate between Texas and Washington, and that Texas has generally been welcoming to immigrants, despite being a conservative state.

As the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill works its way through the Senate, Texas Senator John Cornyn has proposed an amendment (RESULTS) that would increase requirements for border security before granting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  In an editorial in USA Today, Cornyn emphasizes the need to guarantee a secure border:

Senate Majority Leader has called the amendment a "poison pill" and other Democratic senators have rejected the amendment, with Reid saying “We have a senator from Texas, Senator Cornyn who wants to change border security, a trigger, saying that it has to be a 100 percent border security, or [there will] be no bill. That’s a poison pill,” Reid said on Univision’s Al Punto."
Read more:

The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on the immigration bill for Monday afternoon.

In the House, the issue of access to healthcare has created divisions in the set of negotiators who hope to complete a bill in the next week or two: 
"But there is a bloc of House GOP members -- including 2012 vice presidential candidate Rep Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- that is pushing for a similar bipartisan approach that the Senate is taking up this week, which includes a path to citizenship. The group represents a minority within the House GOP conference.
That bipartisan effort suffered a significant setback last week. A working group, similar to the Senate's "Gang of Eight," has been on the verge of unveiling legislation for months, according to multiple sources. But Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the four GOP members in the group, abruptly dropped out. Like Rubio, who is needed to attract Republican votes in the Senate, reform backers hoped Labrador would play the same role in the House.
Labrador was frustrated he couldn't get support for his detailed proposal laying out how undocumented workers in the U.S. would be barred from any taxpayer-funded health care benefits."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Immigration reform moves forward in the Senate and a discussion on the impact of immigration reform in Texas

The Senate immigration reform bill crafted by the "Gang of Eight" survived committee hearings mostly intact, with few amendments allowed to alter the carefully negotiated bill. Despite Senator Schumer's confidence that the bill will pass by July 4th, and Harry Reid's statements that the bill can avoid a filibuster, others, including Marco Rubio, are concerned that the bill doesn't have enough votes to make it to a floor vote.

Meanwhile, many Senators on both sides of the aisle are expressing concerns about the border security provisions in the bill and Texas' John Cornyn is preparing amendments to overhaul border security and other sections of the bill.
Zocalo Public Square is highlighting the issue of immigration reform in Texas today with a discussion online, and at Rice University on Thursday, June 6th:
Including my contribution:

Terri E. Givens

Following in California’s footsteps                

Immigration reform will have a significant impact on Texas politics in the long term. If the path to citizenship remains in the legislation, it could lead to large numbers of currently undocumented immigrants eventually becoming citizens. The current efforts of political organizers to mobilize the Latino vote in Texas will be critical, in order to develop a constituency which understands the power of the vote and can put forward viable candidates. Even without a path to citizenship, demographics in Texas are changing rapidly.

The changes which occurred in California politics in the late 1990s and early 2000s are instructive for Texas politicians. I lived in California at that time and saw the mobilization of the Latino vote after the passage of Prop. 187. As noted in a New York Times article from last summer the Republican Party in California holds no statewide offices. It's interesting to note that we have the opposite situation here in Texas, with Republicans holding all statewide offices. However, the Democratic party, in particular the new organization Battleground Texas, is pouring significant resources into the state in a bid to make Texas a swing state by the next decade. We have already seen some changes, as in the lack of harsh immigration control measures being put forward during this year's legislative session. It's clear that many politicians in Texas will have to pay attention to issues that are of concern to a changing constituency, and politicians like the Castro brothers from San Antonio may be harbingers of a new political order in the state.

Terri E. Givens is associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. More information at