EDINBURG, RGV – La Unión del Pueblo Entero, the community group that works to help immigrants and low-income families prosper in the Rio Grande Valley, staged a protest and news conference Friday outside the Edinburg office of Congressman Vicente Gonzalez.
The group was angered by Gonzalez’s vote on a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open. The Republican-written CR did not contain any mention of protecting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. LUPE members pointed out that there are 7,000 DACA recipients in the Rio Grande Valley. DACA recipients are also known as DREAMers.
“Every day there are 122 young immigrants who are losing their protection from DACA and who are then subject to arrest, detention, deportation, under the Trump administration. What we are seeing is DACA recipients going through the checkpoint being split up, scrutinized and some of them have had their DACA cancelled by Border Patrol,” said LUPE’s John-Michael Torres.
“This is the Trump administration in Congressman Gonzalez’s district going after DREAMers. Instead of doing all in his powers to support DREAMers and getting the DREAM Act passed, he (Gonzalez) essentially voted to approve funds that, if they are approved by the Senate, would be used to go after those same DREAMers.”
The continuing resolution passed Thursday night by a vote of 230 Yeas to 197 Nays in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gonzalez said his support for the CR came in response to the inclusion of a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which would guarantee health insurance for thousands of children in South Texas.
“Having a fully functioning federal government is something we in this body – and in this country – can all agree on. This is critical for our national security. I did not come to Congress to shut the government down. On the contrary, I came to Congress to keep the government open and our nation safe,” Gonzalez said.
“During my short time here, I have pledged my unwavering support for DREAMers, co-sponsoring several pieces of legislation that would give them a pathway to a permanent status. I vow to continue championing DREAMers in Congress, but I could not leave thousands of young South Texans without health insurance or shutter vital services provided by U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs, VA clinics, USDA inspectors, letter carriers, and all other federal employees.”
That explanation did not sit well with LUPE. Torres said LUPE members and supporters are “feeling very disappointed, very sad at this moment that he (Gonzalez) went back on his word, that he did not do all in his powers, at this very urgent moment, to protect DREAMers.”
Torres pointed out that there is a bi-partisan group of congressmen who are working to get protection for DREAMers into law.
“Most Democrats voted against the bill last night. Even some pro-DREAMer Republicans voted against it. And yet, Congressman Gonzalez decided to join the Deportation Caucus of the Democratic Party and vote for this proposal that will be used, if it is approved by the government, to go after DREAMers,” Torres said.
In response to claims that a yes vote on the Republican-written CR meant the Children’s Health Insurance Program was being reinstated, Torres acknowledged that CHIP and DACA are popular in both parties. “They have bipartisan support. There are other proposals on the table that Congressman Gonzalez could have used to show his support for CHIP and DACA.”
Torres said Gonzalez “followed the lead” of the House Republican leadership to “try to divide and conquer.” Torres said there was a better course of action. “He should have stood with the people. It is a very sad moment, a lot of us are disappointed.”
Torres then read aloud a statement by a Rio Grande Valley native and DACA recipient who was in Washington, D.C., to watch the CR vote. Her name is Allison Duarte and she is a constituent in Gonzalez’s District 15.
“Seeing the vote given to the CR by Congressman Gonzalez was extremely disappointing. Being one of his constituents and a DACA recipient, all I can say is that Mr. Gonzalez is not looking after my interests and those of the nearly 7,000 DREAMers in the RGV,” Torres said, reading aloud Duarte’s statement.
“What made matters worse for us was that a member of his staff implied that voting no on the CR meant that DREAMers would put CHIP beneficiaries in danger, which is not the case. There are other bill proposals that included both DREAMer and CHIP protection, but Gonzalez still went ahead and voted yes for a CR that left us DREAMers unprotected.”
Tania Chavez, another LUPE leader, was also disappointed by Gonzalez’s vote on the CR.
“Last night, Vicente Gonzalez was not with the people. He betrayed the immigrant community of the Rio Grande Valley. His district, District 15, has the highest number of DACA recipients in Texas and one of the highest number of DACA recipients in the nation,” Chavez said.
“What almost brought me to tears this afternoon was being given a call by the Congressman’s office, from his chief of staff, telling us that either we call off this press conference or his office will part ways with our organization. We truly believe that as a non-profit organization we are here to represent the people and we elevate the voice of the community. It is his duty as a congressman, it is his duty as an elected official, to listen to the people, to listen both ways, pro and against. Having received a call from his office is depressing. Our freedom of speech is suppressed. He (Gonzalez) is suppressing our first amendment rights.”
Chavez added that LUPE was surprised Gonzalez voted for a continuing resolution that did not include protection for DREAMers.
“We ask him to open his heart and to listen to both sides. Pitting kids against kids is not the solution. Pitting children against children is not the solution. Pitting CHIP children against DACA children is not the solution.”
Amanda Salas, a member of the No Border Wall Coalition, also spoke at the protest outside Gonzalez’s McAllen office. She said her group support a “clean” DREAM Act.
“We are not compromising any DACA recipients, we are not compromising their parents, and we do not want to compromise any of the CHIP recipients,” Salas said.
“One thing that is really upsetting about Vicente Gonzalez’s vote yesterday was he claimed he needed to keep the government open for different bureaucracies and different agencies and the reason why that is problematic is because these agencies have existed for a long time and they haven’t gone anywhere but these DACA families are being separated on a daily basis. Their families are being torn apart and there is not anything that the Congressman is doing.”
Salas added: “He (Gonzalez) is telling us that he is fighting for us and his vote yesterday just proves that he has some other interests at heart. This is not something we are going to stand for. We have 7,000 DACA recipients. Those 7,000 recipients have families, they have friends, they are assets to our community and they are not to be compromised for any reason whatsoever, especially for something as simple as a continuing resolution that does not solve any of our problems. We stand with you, all of you guys at LUPE and all of the people who are fighting for a clean DREAM Act.”
Congressman Gonzalez’s viewpoint
In his statement on his vote for the continuing resolution, Gonzalez said voting ‘no’ on this bill would not make a deal on DACA more likely.
“We have until March to negotiate a bipartisan compromise and make an earnest effort to get this done right. A ‘yes’ vote is a responsible vote for our children, our veterans, our seniors, and our federal employees,” Gonzalez said.
“While I do not agree with the President on many issues, I believe it is our responsibility as members of Congress to keep the government funded and running for all Americans, DREAMers included. That is what the people of the 15th District of Texas elected me to do, and that’s the job I intend to continue doing while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
In a later news release, Gonzalez listed a range of federal agencies and programs that will be negatively affected by a government shutdown.
“South Texans have a right to know what is at stake should the federal government shut down,” Gonzalez said. “I would also like to remind my fellow members of Congress that shutdowns have real consequences for our constituents, our economy, and our national security. I call on my colleagues across the Capitol to recognize the gravity of the situation and pass this continuing resolution before the impending deadline.”
Here is the Gonzalez list:
Social Security, Medicare, and Affordable Care Act Beneficiaries:
Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act are part of the mandatory budget and, therefore, these programs would remain in operation;
All Social Security checks would be sent to beneficiaries;
Services in Social Security field offices and processing centers would be limited;
No new or replacement Social Security cards or updated earnings would be processed.
Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims would be backlogged as new claims are submitted;
Important veterans’ services would be halted, such as services that help veterans understand benefits, education call center, and all regional offices would be closed;
Delayed access for veterans’ workshops designed to help transition to civilian life and employment;
Medical services for veterans would continue to be available during a government shutdown.
Most Department of Defense budget planning and preparation would cease;
Military personnel would not receive paychecks during a funding lapse;
Military operations abroad would continue.
Small businesses that contract with the federal government would be significantly impacted;
The failure to receive government payment could see temporary contractors to be forced to either lay off employees or impose temporary regulations that could create financial hardship on small businesses;
No new approvals of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for business working capital, real estate investment, or job creation activities would occur;
Agricultural export credit activity and other agricultural trade development and monitoring would cease.
Disrupted tourism and travel by closing national parks and other national tourist sites;
Potential delay in home loan decisions for low-income working families in rural communities;
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s single-family loan guarantee program could face the inability to process loan applications during the shutdown, preventing eligible families from receiving loans.
Communities and Cities:
The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund would suspend its grants and technical assistance to communities across the country, delaying investments that finance businesses and create jobs in distressed neighborhoods;
Department of Commerce grant-making programs for economic development would cease, as would most payments by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program to state and local governments.
The following federal departments would be closed in the event of a government shutdown:
Commerce, except National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;
Energy (offices that oversee the safety of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, dams and transmission lines would remain open);
Environmental Protection Agency;
Food and Drug Administration;
Health and Human Services;
Housing and Urban Development;
Internal Revenue Service;
National Institute of Health;