SAN BENITO, July 21 - Congressman Rep. Rubén Hinojosa says he is opposed to the Corker-Hoeven amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill and to further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Mercedes Democrat, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, made his position clear in a statement issued to Presente.org.
“Coming from a Border district in southwest Texas I am very sensitive to amendments like Corker-Hoeven. It is undeniable that people have concerns about our border; however those of us from the border region know that we most need security investment at the ports of entry, not between them,” Hinojosa said.
“The movement of people legally through our ports of entry, and the ability to stop guns and narcotics at the border is critically important to the safety and economic growth of the region. Unfortunately Corker-Hoeven ignores the progress already made at our border and is misguided in its allocation of resources for the region.
“Our region has a long history of business trade with our neighbor to the south and we hope to build on that strong relationship to make our economy strong along the border and the rest of the country. I stand firm in my belief that we should not allow the separation of families, and I completely support the passing of an immigration bill with a pathway to citizenship.”
The statement from Hinojosa came after a House colleague from the Texas-Mexico border, Congressman Filemon Vela, quit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in protest at the inclusion of the Corker-Hoeven amendment in the Senate immigration reform bill. The CHC has not taken a formal position on the amendment.
The amendment by U.S. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and John Hoeven, R-Dakota, calls for an additional 20,000 border patrol agents, increased drone surveillance, and completion of 700 miles of border fencing at an estimated cost of $48 billion over ten years. The amendment was accepted by the so-called Gang of Eight senators that fashioned S.744, the Senate immigration reform bill. It passed the Senate with support from 68 senators, including 14 Republicans. Texas’ two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted against the measure because they said the border security provisions did not go far enough.
On Wednesday, Congressman Vela held a rally against increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border at his district office in San Benito. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club were present, along with colonia, immigrant rights and grassroots groups, such as Proyecto Libertad, Movimiento del Valle, La Unión del Pueblo Entero, and Project ARISE.
Scott Nicol, of the Sierra Club’s Borderlands Team, predicted hundreds of additional miles of fencing would be built along the South Texas border region. And he pointed out that under S.744, immigrants will not be able to secure permanent resident status or citizenship unless and until the various border security provisions are met. So, if Congress does not provide the funding for an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents or for the additional fencing, pathway to citizenship will not happen.
“The way the bill is written, nobody gets a pathway to citizenship until the wall is build and the Border Patrol numbers are higher. It would be amazing to think you are going to double the number of Border Patrol in a very short time. It could take Congress takes a really long time,” Nicol said.
Nicol said having an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents is a recipe for disaster. “The only way that is going to happen in a short period of time is if you lower your standards dramatically. Apprehensions are way down. These Border Patrol agents will be running around with guns with nothing to do and poor training. That does not sound like a good way to be managing the border,” he said.
Nicol urged other border congressmen to stand with Vela and stand up for their districts in opposition to increased militarization of the border. “These walls are being thrown upon their districts, they should stand up for their districts, their eco-systems, the farmers, the homeowners that are along the border that are going to have these walls coming through their lands,” he said.
Rogelio Nuñez is executive director of Proyecto Libertad. He told the Guardian that the “trigger” inserted in S.744 with the Corker-Hoeven amendment is designed to keep immigrant communities from becoming legalized. The longer legalization can be put off, the longer it will take for minorities to exert political influence, the former history professor said.
“The opponents of immigration reform are seeing the future and they do not like it. So, they are going to do whatever they can to make sure they keep winning, including gerrymandering and inserting triggers in the immigration reform bill,” Nuñez said.
“But, you cannot stop the will of a community. You cannot stop the will of a people who historically has been on both sides of the border, who has historically has family, cultural ties, tradition, history, you are not going to be able to stop that. It is really unjust and unfair when there are efforts by legislators to stop that whole integration and cohesion of what is community and what is family on the Southwestern Border.”