BROWNSVILLE, February 19 - Congressman Filemon Vela says a border security “trigger” needs to be separated from the immigration reform debate.
In this regard, Vela, a Brownsville Democrat, says he backs the stance held by La Unión del Pueblo Entero, the National Council of La Raza, and the National Immigration Law Center.
“Opponents of immigration reform seek to hold the legislative process hostage by insisting on an arbitrary declaration of border security on the US-Mexico border. Attaching such a contingency to the debate is nothing more than an overt attempt to thwart reform efforts,” Vela said, in a news release issued Monday.
“Simply put, those who would condition immigration reform on a trigger of border security simply oppose a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented workers and their families currently in the United States.”
Members of La Unión del Pueblo say they are encouraged by Vela’s statement.
“We are glad that he agrees with the position on border security that we at LUPE and the other non-profit organization members of the Equal Voice Network have held for a long time,” said John-Michael Torres, a spokesman for LUPE.
“Congressman Vela is standing up for residents of the border who have witnessed millions of dollars of federal funds diverted from social programs toward border security that has done little to make life along the border safer, but rather further criminalizes migration and enriches private prison companies filling their beds with non-violent border crossers.”
Torres said that while crime rates in towns along the border have declined over the past decade, “increased border enforcement has rerouted migrants toward ever more dangerous border crossings, resulting in increased deaths of migrants along this stretch of the border.”
Instead of linking immigration reform and citizenship for new Americans to the ever-moving goal post of a ‘secure border,’ Torres said, federal funds should “go toward staffing ports of entry and providing more visas to facilitate the safe and secure movement of people and goods across our border, which is the safest it has been in decades.”
Torres added: “We hope that Congressman Cuellar joins Congressman Vela in coming out strongly in support of separating border security from immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented family members.
“Congressman Vela has lived and worked in this community for decades. He understands the importance of Immigration Reform. We urge him to take his understanding of this issue to the other Congressmen from the interior that have not lived along the border or known firsthand of the issues of our border.”
LUPE is a member of the RGV Equal Voice Network. Equal Voice is holding a news conference in front of the Reynaldo G. Garza-Filemon B. Vela Federal Court House in Brownsville, starting at 2 p.m. The group says it will announce upcoming Days of Action events that call for an end to the criminalization of immigrants and in particular, for a stop of Operation Streamline.
“The RGV Equal Voice Network, along with different organizations and communities from across the nation, will be calling for a stop to Operation Streamline; a ‘zero tolerance’ border enforcement program that criminalizes first time undocumented border crossers as well as other immigrants,” said Astrid Dominguez, of the RGV Equal Voice Network.
“The RGV Equal Voice Network will be joining days of action from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21 with Grassroots Leadership, the ACLU of Texas and the American Friends Service Committee of Tucson, to demand that immigration reform ends, rather than expands the criminalization of migration and stops the funding for harsh border enforcement policies, like operation streamline.”
The Rio Grande Equal Voice Network is a community based organization. Its mission statement is to “create a movement of social change through the civic engagement of the more than 30, 000 constituents of the network’s participating organizations.” These include LUPE, Proyecto Juan Diego, ARISE, Movimiento del Valle por los Derechos Humanos, and the South Texas Civil Rights Project.