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  1. #1
    Senior Member jp_48504's Avatar
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    Apr 2005

    Immigration sturs residents' emotions

    Immigration sturs residents' emotions
    By:Nancy Flake, Courier staff

    Few words can unleash a torrent of strong feelings among Montgomery County residents as two simple words that convey a host of complex problems.

    Those two words are "illegal immigrants."
    Among Montgomery County's rapidly growing Hispanic population, it is impossible to know exactly how many of the men, women and children coming here are doing so illegally. For many residents, they are nothing but a drain on society and resources.

    "We're getting jobs taken away from us," said Linda Pearson, a Montgomery resident. "The government is giving our country over to foreigners and we definitely are being overloaded. The Hispanic population - most of them came here illegally and got their status. Some of them are hard-working, good people, but they still shouldn't come here illegally."
    None of the immigrants who, often taking dangerous risks, come to Texas in search of something better do so with the express purpose of taking a job away from an American citizen, notes one young woman who works with many illegal immigrants.

    Soco Gorjon, the assistant city secretary for the city of Conroe and an employee with the city's Hispanic Community Liaison, has been legally in the United States since she and her family emigrated from Mexico 30 years ago. "We never came with the mentality that we would take anybody's job away," she said. "The reason we came here was because my mother's family was here and also to better our lives."

    Gorjon and her family got their "green cards" - documentation that allows immigrants to reside legally in the U.S. - before they came to Montgomery County. They also attempted to learn English in Mexico, but what they were taught was so rudimentary it did no good, she said.

    "I learned English in a year," Gorjon, who was 10 at the time, said.
    Since Mexico has a large public transportation system, the family never thought they would need a car here, and they ended up walking everywhere.

    "You could hear people drive by and say, 'Look at them,'" she said. "I remember all the racial comments. It was awful."

    As a teenager, Gorjon tried to lose her accent so she would be accepted. She didn't, and she now embraces her Mexican heritage by speaking only Spanish at home. "A lot of Hispanic kids don't want to speak Spanish," she said. "They don't want people to think they mow lawns."

    And while many illegal immigrants do work in low-paying jobs, such as lawn care, the jobs are an improvement over what they had before they came. "The reason they take low-paying jobs is they compare them to what they were making in Mexico, Nicaragua or El Salvador," Gorjon said. "They're making a lot more here."

    The United States Census Bureau can only estimate how many unauthorized immigrants are in the country, and in 2000, that estimate was 7 million, with 1 million in Texas. The costs associated with educating and providing health care for unauthorized immigrants are staggering.

    The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national, nonprofit membership organization focusing on immigration issues, estimates that Texas spent nearly $4 million in 2004 to educate illegal immigrant students and U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

    That number cannot be confirmed through the Texas Education Agency. "Because of federal law, we can't ask (if they're illegal)," TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

    School districts throughout Texas, therefore, also do not know how much they spend educating students who are in the country illegally. "TEA mandates the criteria we use to track students, and citizenship is not one of them," Kay Galindo, spokeswoman for the Conroe Independent School District, said.

    Because of federal law, hospitals also cannot ask about citizenship of patients. However, the federal government is sending up to $46 million to Texas this year to reimburse hospitals for emergency care needed to stabilize patients who are illegal immigrants.

    The funding is based on new federal rules calling for eligibility to be established by asking patients "indirect" questions, such as whether they are eligible for Medicaid, whether they have a border crossing card, and whether they are foreign-born.

    Federal law prohibits law enforcement, except for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), from asking immigrants if they are here legally. "We cannot profile," said Sgt. Bob Berry with the Conroe Police Department. "As a general rule, we do not and cannot stop someone; we have to have a reason to make contact with them.

    "If we arrest a person a learn they are undocumented, we can refer them to ICE and ask to put a hold on them until their status is determined."

    The increase in immigrants means an increase in service calls by Conroe Police officers, according to Berry. "It creates a burden for us because only a few of our officers speak Spanish. We have people going down to local academies and trying to recruit minorities."

    Out of the Conroe Police Department's 93 officers, four have Spanish surnames and speak Spanish fluently, Berry said. "A lot of Hispanics don't trust us because in the countries where they're from, the police may be corrupt. We're having to bridge that gap with things like the city's Hispanic Community Liaison.

    "We're gradually making inroads."

    But many people think too little is being done to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, including a recently organized group of citizens called the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. The Minutemen recently patrolled the border between Mexico and Arizona, monitoring immigrants trying to cross over into the U.S. and notifying Border Patrol agents of immigrants' whereabouts.

    The Minutemen have received much praise for their vigilance and their concern over America's "leaky borders" that may be providing opportunities for terrorists to slip into the U.S. unnoticed. "The way they conduct themselves on the border helps raise visibility for the need for more Border Patrol agents," U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said. "I empathize with their frustration. I firmly believe you have to keep the back door of illegal immigration closed so you can keep the front door of legal immigration open. We need to welcome immigrants who play by the rules and seek citizenship legally."

    The Minutemen have come to Texas, and in fact, to Montgomery County, where they plan to keep an eye on day-labor sites such as the one in Conroe, according to the leader of the Houston Minuteman chapter, a resident of Montgomery County.

    Phil Johnson Sr. said the Houston chapter has only been in existence for little more than a week and he has been "totally inundated" by phone calls from people wanting to serve as volunteers. The Houston chapter is divided into five sectors, with one sector encompassing the area between Houston and Dallas, including Montgomery County.

    Johnson said he expects the group to have 6,000 members by the end of the year.

    "Most members are ex-military or retired law enforcement," Johnson said. "Those are the ones who are allowed to carry concealed weapons."

    The Minutemen will be traveling to Houston in October to monitor sites where day laborers gather and are picked up by individual or companies wanting to hire them for the day or longer. The group will be videotaping the laborers and those who pick them up.

    "We will not know who's illegal," Johnson said. "We're more concerned about who's hiring. We will be taking pictures of license plates, names of companies that are readily identifiable and faces of drivers. We will follow them to job sites and see where they return these people."

    The Minutemen are planning an outing to the day-labor site in Conroe; all Johnson could say about when that might happen is, "It won't be long."
    "We feel the city of Houston and city of Conroe that are providing places for illegal activity - we feel they are aiding and abetting illegal practices. What if there are MS (MS-13) gang members among those workers?" Johnson said.

    Every Minutemen volunteer must undergo an FBI background check - at his or her own expense - and is screened for racist or violent tendencies, according to Johnson. "We do not want anybody racist in our group," he said. "The first time they touch or make an obscene gesture to our adversaries, they will be kicked out."

    Verbal confrontations, he added, will be a "judgment call." When asked if the videotaping might be seen by day laborers or employers as intimidating, Johnson said, "They can take it any way they want.
    "The bottom line is, we're a patriotic group. Most of us are very devout Christians. We only want what's right for this country."

    The Department of Homeland Security has distanced itself from the Minutemen, saying it has no current plans to enlist civilian volunteers to help patrol U.S. borders. When Robert Bonner, the nation's top U.S. border enforcement official, said earlier this week that his agency is exploring ways of having civilians assist the Border Patrol, Homeland Security officials released a statement the next day that said the job of patrolling borders should continue to be done by the highly trained, professional law enforcement officials of the Border Patrol and its partner agencies.

    Last year, the Border Patrol caught more than 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona alone.

    Brady appreciates the visibility the Minutemen bring to the problems of border security, but "I would advise them to act very cautiously in further steps," he said. "They need to work with law enforcement. If their goal is to make us more secure, there is a right way and a very wrong way to do it.

    "Where they could help us most is to harness that energy and help us convince members of Congress to tackle the problems of the borders in a real, thoughtful way."

    There are no easy answers to illegal immigration, and Brady said the House of Representatives will be working on several pieces of legislation next year. He is not a fan of President Bush's "stay and work" approach to handling those already here, but does like aspects of a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that would require illegal immigrants to return to their home countries within five years. They could then apply for the guest worker program or for permanent residency.
    "We cannot reward illegal actions with amnesty," Brady said. "It sends the wrong signal and it doesn't solve the problems. If we secure the borders, enforce the laws and help provide job opportunities in the home countries, ultimately that's the solution.

    "We have to address it respectfully and thoughtfully."

    Nancy Flake can be reached at
    I stay current on Americans for Legal Immigration PAC's fight to Secure Our Border and Send Illegals Home via E-mail Alerts (CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP)

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2005
    The article states that the cost to the state of Texas for illegals is 4 million....nope..overall it's 4 BILLION...4.7 BILLION annually.

    The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. " - Lloyd Jones

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