WESLACO, RGV – If the immigrants say they have been here five years, send them on their way but if they are recent arrivals in the country, hold them there and I will be right over.

Could this, following President Obama’s executive action on immigration, be the response from Border Patrol to call from a DPS trooper who has pulled over a vehicle near the Texas-Mexico border and found a number of passengers with no documentation?

This scenario was discussed during and after a break out session on immigration at a Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus summit held at South Texas College’s Mid Valley campus in Weslaco on Saturday. (The Senate Hispanic Caucus’ task force recommendations on immigration are listed at the end of this story. )

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a member of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, told the Guardian that the scenario of a DPS trooper calling Border Patrol and getting such a response is highly unlikely because DPS, as a rule, does not involve itself in federal immigration law.

“The focus of DPS is not on immigration. They do not have any authority to enforce immigration laws. Their focus is on the interdiction of drugs and to catch any smugglers, not only of drugs but human smugglers. I just do not see any impact from President Obama’s executive action on their mission or their responsibilities of enforcing our criminal laws as they are not authorized to enforce any immigration laws.”

When it was pointed out that colonia community groups dispute the claim that DPS does not get involved in immigration law when pulling a driver over for a traffic violation, Hinojosa said:

“The information I have received from DPS and the reports I have seen really state that that is an exception to the rule. They do not call Border Patrol. They sometimes are close to Border Patrol and Border Patrol agents will come to where they made a stop and many times the person they stop does not speak English and unfortunately, the DPS officer is from another region of the state and they do not speak Spanish very well. It is an issue I have brought up with Commander Rodriguez from the region and Director Steve McCraw. And so the point is for DPS this is just another reminder that they are not here to enforce immigration laws. They are here to enforce any violation of our criminal statutes.”

Obama’s executive action allows undocumented immigrants that have lived in the U.S. for five years or more and who have children that are either U.S. citizens or legal residents to be protected from deportation and allows them to get a work permit.

The Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus held a breakout session on immigration at its summit at South Texas College in Weslaco on Saturday, November 22.
The Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus held a breakout session on immigration at its summit at South Texas College in Weslaco on Saturday, November 22.

Asked if he supported Obama’s action, Hinojosa said:

“I support it. It makes sense. We are here to unite families, not separate families. I cannot think of any action more devastating to a family who has children who are born here in the United States and are citizens to have their parents deported to Mexico and separated from their Mom and Dad. It is unconscionable. So, I support President Obama’s executive order to unite families.”

Hinojosa said immigration has to be dealt with by Congress. “Our country’s economy cannot make progress and grow if we do not have labor and skills brought by immigrants that come to our country.”

La Unión del Pueblo Entero community organizer Martha Sanchez had a different view of DPS’s work along the border.