HARLINGEN, March 24 - The RGV Equal Voice Network is to hold a vigil outside U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s district office in Harlingen next Tuesday to push for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
Cornyn’s critics acknowledge it could be a hard slog getting Texas’ senior senator to back an immigration bill that includes a citizenship component. They note he has been telling reporters that the border has to be secured first.
“It is extremely disappointing that Sen. Cornyn will not join his Republican Senate colleagues, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul in supporting a pathway to citizenship,” said Mariana Marquez, an undocumented student from Donna who hopes to get a temporary social security card through President Obama’s Deferred Action initiative.
“The irony is Cornyn represents a border state, a minority-majority state. Texas, more than any other state, stands to benefit if our undocumented immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows and become citizens,” Marquez said. She said she hopes to participate in Tuesday’s vigil.
Cornyn’s Rio Grande Valley district office is at 222 East Van Buren Street in Harlingen. The vigil will start at 10 a.m., Tuesday, March 26.
Rogelio Nuñez, executive director of Casa De Proyecto Libertad in Harlingen, gave a list of the measures the RGV Equal Voice Network wants to see in a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“We want a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. We want a process that keeps immigrant families together and we want respect for human rights and civil liberties,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez said comprehensive immigration reform must also promote community security, establish a responsible and accountable border policy, support immigrant integration, develop a process for periodic review of the immigration system, and address the root causes of immigration.
“Furthermore, we demand an end to deportations, no additional enforcement on the U.S – Mexican border, and no more immigrant families in prisons,” Nuñez said.
Casa De Proyecto Libertad is one of ten nonprofit, community-based organizations that make up Equal Voice in the Rio Grande Valley. The groups represent more than 35,000 constituents and in communities directly impacted by the nation’s broken immigration system.
Nuñez said Tuesday’s vigil is part of a larger campaign by Texans who “believe in an immigration reform that strengthens our state and our country.” He said the campaign includes business owners, law enforcement executives, diverse immigrant communities and border residents.
Cornyn made clear his position on a pathway to citizenship at a recent news conference with reporters in Washington, D.C. “How does that solve what’s broken with our immigration system? That’s the basic fallacy of that sort of putting-the-cart-before-the-horse approach,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn said it is a “mistake” to focus on including citizenship in any immigration reform bill. He said it could come later, once “we do what we need to do in terms of border security, work site enforcement and a guest worker program.”
While Cornyn’s stance is at loggerheads with that of the RGV Equal Voice Network, border congressmen from South Texas are stating their support for a pathway to citizenship. U.S. Reps. U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Filemon Vela, met with members of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, another group in the Equal Voice network, and students from UT-Pan American’s Minority Affairs Council (MAC) on Saturday. The meeting took place at the end of the South Texas Mayors’ Stakeholder Summit at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
Hinojosa and Vela assured the colonia representatives and students that they fully support having a pathway to citizenship within a comprehensive immigration reform bill. “A pathway to citizenship is top of the list of the things that need to be in comprehensive immigration reform,” Hinojosa told the Guardian.
Hinojosa and Vela also offered their full support for the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students a chance to get a social security card and work. “If the DREAM Act is not in the immigration bill the President will not sign it,” Hinojosa said. This statement pleased members of MAC.
“We are very excited to have met with the congressmen. We are very pleased to hear President Obama will not sign any immigration reform bill that does not include the DREAM Act,” Esther Herrera, secretary of MAC.
Vela said there is a good chance MAC and United We Dream students can meet with Latino members of Congress from other parts of the United States on Thursday. The representatives will be in the Valley for a fundraiser Wednesday evening for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). Some may stay in the Valley for part of Thursday and would thus have the opportunity to meet the students.
“We are very excited to be meeting the members of Congress next week and we look forward to developing a strategic plan on immigration reform,” said Herrera.
The CHCI event is being dubbed a Regional Celebration of Latino Leadership. It takes place at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27. It is being coordinated by Hinojosa, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“We are bringing 12 members of Congress from California, Arizona and Texas to the Valley. We are delighted because there are only going to be three of these fundraisers around the country, one in Los Angeles, one in New York City and one in Edinburg/McAllen,” Hinojosa said.
“With CHCI we are trying to create the next generation of Latino leaders, to bring them to Washington to do an internship, to do a fellowship. To this you have to raise a lot of money because we pay their internships. Some will work for representatives, others for senators and others for federal departments, such as the department of energy and the department of commerce. It is a great experience for the young leaders because some of them have never even flown. On Wednesday they are going to come and see alumni have graduated from the CHCI program.”