AUSTIN, Texas – El Paso County Commissioner David Stout is chairman of the Texas Border Coalition.
On May 17, Stout submitted a letter to the Texas Senate Committee on Border Security in which he strongly opposed House Bill 7 and House Bill 800.
However, the letter was sent in Stout’s capacity as county commissioner for precinct two, not as TBC chairman.
HB 7 and HB 800 are border security bills.
HB 7 was authored by state Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Richard Peña Raymond of Laredo, Sergio Muñoz of Mission, J.M. Lozano of Portland and Janie Lopez of San Benito.
HB 800 was authored by Reps. Guillen, Peña Raymond, Muñoz, Eddie Morales of Eagle Pass, and Janie Lopez.
Opponents of one or both bills included the Texas Civil Rights Project, Migrant Center for Human Rights, La Unión del Pueblo Enter, ARISE Adelante, Border Network for Human Rights, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Here is Commissioner Stout’s letter:
May 17, 2023
Honorable Committee Chair and Members:
I write to submit testimony strongly opposing HB 7 and HB 800.
These and other “border security” measures are not based on facts and data, but rather a misrepresentation of immigrants and a misunderstanding of border communities.
I support smart, targeted law enforcement strategies that go after true threats to public safety. These bills do not reflect measured deliberation worthy of the Senate but rather the worst type of scapegoating of “the other” harkening back to the dark parts of Texas history that you should reject, and further, that you should lead the public in rejecting, instead of fanning the flames of fear and ignorance.
The state of Texas has spent billions of dollars on a nebulous concept called “border security” starting about 10 years ago. Those huge expenses have cramped the state’s ability to meet other, real needs, like education and health care, or the continued development of renewable energy ad improvements to the grid, while not stemming the flow of migrants nor decreasing the cost or availability of drugs, including fentanyl.
Fentanyl, according to federal statistics, comes across through ports of entry. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as reported in March by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), “since October 2022 (the start of the government’s 2023 fiscal year), 92 percent of U.S. border authorities’ fentanyl seizures have occurred at ports of entry, the official border crossings.” Since 2019, less than three percent of TOTAL fentanyl seized on the U.S.-Mexico border has come through Texas.
The migrants I have seen and talked to in El Paso are seeking a better life, fleeing danger and persecution, and looking for a safe place where they can work hard and create opportunity for themselves and their families. These are the kind of people we need in Texas and the U.S. – entrepreneurial and risk-taking. Enforcement only, let alone the reign of fear proposed by these bills, does not address social and economic realities driving migrants, and will only make them more desperate and drive them further underground while enriching the criminal gangs that prey on them.
The Sanctuary Movement in the United States once was led by faith-based groups, including evangelical denominations in Texas. They recognized the moral necessity of welcoming the stranger. Business groups have recognized the practical value of immigration, as well as the needs for investment on the border to focus on trade and community infrastructure at the federal and state level, and the needs for adequate federal support for ports personnel.
Only months into his presidency, President Ronald Reagan famously stated that “more than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.”
Where he addressed border enforcement, he stated, “The steps we take to further these objectives, however, must also be consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.”
These bills represent less an effort at smart border enforcement and more a blunt instrument that punishes immigrants and the communities through which they pass. They are inconsistent with the American values of individual privacy and freedom, which this body claims to champion.
Creating vigilante squads that feed a parallel system of justice at great expense and without accountability must be solidly rejected by the Texas Legislature. Vote against HB 7 and HB 800.
David C. Stout
El Paso County, Precinct 2
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