July 9, 2003

Meet Your Neighbors

Meet Your Neighbors
The face in our city’s mirror is changing.
July 09, 2003


The crowd outside the Rose Marine Theater on North Main numbered more than a thousand. Some had arrived at 5 a.m. with folding chairs, ice chests, water bottles, and umbrellas, and they waited in the sweltering heat, in a line stretching down the sidewalk, around the building, down the alley and into the street.

This week, the historic theater will no doubt draw plenty of folks to its Latino Film Series and Hispanic Playwrights Festival. But the crowd last month was looking for a different kind of excitement. Men and women, kids and old people were waiting to apply for a matricula — a Mexican-government identification card that can help in opening bank accounts and in re-entering Mexico. Matriculas are becoming a kind of national I.D. card for Mexican citizens living abroad.

Like the film and stage series, the crowds for this event held a powerful message about the diversity of our city. They represent the changing face of Fort Worth — and indeed, of our country.

There are more than 1.5 million Latinos in North Texas. In Tarrant County, the Latino community has more than doubled in each of the last two censuses. Before that, the 1980 census showed an increase of nearly 100 percent. That’s three decades of tremendous growth, and we are not slowing down. We now are the fastest-growing and largest ethnic minority in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, and the United States. Over half of North Texas Latinos are members of the immigrant community, the fastest-growing segment of our population.

Latinos are employed in all aspects of life. We are builders and construction workers, lawyers and landscapers, waiters and doctors, mechanics, teachers, business owners and more. We keep the economy going, first by doing the work and second by spending our hard-earned dollars. We are a multi-billion-dollar industry. We are the future.

What impact will these changing demographics have on Fort Worth? One is to add hope. New arrivals bring hope and dreams of a better tomorrow. They are buying homes, sending children to schools, buying products and services, and investing in our future. In general, the newest immigrants are better educated and more likely to be professionally trained than the generations who preceded them. They are also more likely to hang onto their Spanish language skills and their native culture — their mexicanismo.

A second effect is on civic participation. They want to participate in our community in a positive and productive manner. Their largest hurdle is learning the “how to’s” of the process and procedures, the rules and regulations, the local, state, and federal laws.

A gentleman at an immigration seminar told of saving his money and buying a house at auction. He worked two jobs, so the only time he could work on his house was at night. All went well until he started digging a trench from his home to the street for his water service. The motorized trench digger was keeping the neighbors awake, and one of them called the police.

The police officer explained that he could not continue digging at night. The man was startled. Why not? It was his house, he was on his property. The officer explained the city noise ordinance and then noticed that the man did not have a construction permit posted. The immigrant knew nothing about city ordinances and permits. In the end, the cost of the house, the permits, and the repairs were more than it would have cost to buy a house ready to move into — a valuable and expensive lesson on how things are different in the U.S. compared to Mexico.

I can only hope that veteran Fort Worth residents, in turn, will learn a lesson in participation from the immigrants. Most new arrivals come from Mexico, where voter turn-out in municipal elections averages 40 to 50 percent. In our last municipal election voter turn-out was around 4 percent. Their participation should be welcome news for local politicians and community leaders.

So, back to that crowd outside the theater. June 11 had been proclaimed “Dia de Matricula” by the Fort Worth City Council in recognition of the efforts of Councilman Jim Lane, State Rep. Lon Burnam, and Casa Del Inmigrante (CDI) to bring Juan Jose Salgado, the Mexican deputy consul in Dallas, to Fort Worth for the six-hour proceedings.

CDI and our volunteers planned for two months for this first-time-ever event, promoting it through word of mouth and handing out flyers. The Fort Worth Hispanic Fire Fighters, Police Chief Ralph Mendoza, Coca-Cola of North Texas, Aztec Worldwide Inc., J&D Inc., Sammy Pantoja and The Chicano Luncheon all helped bring it about. Despite minimal media exposure, more than 500 people were able to apply for identification documents. More than 600 others left disappointed.

Two weeks later, Consul Salgado returned — and this time more than 1,500 people showed up. About 500 people picked up the matriculas they had applied for on June 11. Another 500 filled out and turned in applications to be processed, and 500 more picked up applications for the next event.

It is time to remove the blinders of “them versus us,” to give up the false distinctions of illegal, undocumented, and “wetback.” We are all neighbors with common ground and common goals for a better life. The sooner we recognize our changing face, the better.

If you know Latino residents who need help with immigration issues, tell them to contact Casa del Inmigrante at 817-626-0445 or by e-mail at cdifw@yahoo.com. Better yet, come join us in helping them scale the obstacles they face.

Renny Rosas is a founder of Casa del Inmigrante, host of The Chicano Luncheon, and a Fort Worth political consultant.

February 1, 2003

INS: 7 Million Illegal Immigrants in U.S.

INS: 7 million illegal immigrants in United States
Mexicans make up nearly 70 percent of total, figures show
From Terry Frieden

Saturday, February 1, 2003 Posted: 12:48 AM EST (0548 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than a million illegal immigrants have slipped into the United States in the past few years, raising the total in the country to 7 million, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Friday.

The vast majority of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico, officials said.

The numbers are based on census figures from 2000 and the agency's own statistics. They are the first official government figures on illegal immigration released since 1996.

The figures show that between October 1996 and January 2000, the number of illegal immigrants grew from about 5.8 million to about 7 million, an increase of more than 300,000 annually.

The proportion of the illegal immigrants who are Mexican has increased to nearly 70 percent from less than 60 percent, the INS said.

Although California is home to the most undocumented immigrants, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina have the greatest rate of increase, the figures showed.

Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said the latest figures are believed to be more accurate than previous ones because they reflect new methods used to determine trends in the entry and departure of undocumented residents.

January 31, 2003

Huge Increase In Illegal Immigrants

INS Counts 7 Million Immigrants Living In U.S. Illegally

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2003

AP) The number of immigrants living illegally in the United States jumped by 1 million in fewer than four years, the government reported Friday.

In the latest count, based on the 2000 Census and INS statistics, the Immigration and Naturalization Service reported that roughly 7 million immigrants, mostly Mexicans, were living illegally in the United States as of January 2000.

That's an increase over the 5.8 million illegal immigrants the INS said lived in the country as of October 1996. The population grew on average during the 1990s by 350,000 a year, about 75,000 more per year than reported in earlier INS estimates.

The totals are likely to trigger further outcry from groups seeking greater restrictions on immigration and tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

"These numbers again confirm ... that America has lost control of its borders," said Steve Camarota, research director for Center for Immigration Studies, a group that wants to curb immigration.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the nation's immigration laws and enforcement have been under heightened scrutiny. But all 19 of the hijackers entered the country legally, with travel, student or business visas. Most of the visas were still valid at the time of the attacks.

John Gay, a lobbyist for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said the numbers shouldn't be a surprise because "we all know how broken the system is." The association lobbies on behalf of businesses that rely on immigrant labor.

"If you've got an economy that is sucking that many workers into it and no reasonably legal means to bring them in, then it's broken," Gay said.

Mexicans made up 69 percent, or 4.8 million, of the illegal immigrant population in 2000, compared with 58 percent in 1990, the INS said.

The new estimates are based on the foreign-born population counted in the 2000 Census, combined with INS statistics on immigrants admitted to the country, deportations and numbers of nonimmigrant residents admitted, such as temporary workers.

Aside from Mexico, other countries that each was the source of more than 100,000 citizens illegally in the United States include El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, China and Ecuador.

The INS said California had the most illegal immigrants, about 2.2 million or 32 percent of the national total. States with the largest numerical increases in the 1990s were California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina. California's share, however, has dropped from 42 percent of the total population in 1990, which reflects the growth of the Hispanic and immigrant population in other states over the past decade.

Some of the highest growth occurred in states where immigrants traditionally have not settled. Georgia's population was estimated at 228,000 in 2000, up from 34,000 in 1990, and North Carolina's rose from 26,000 in 1990 to 206,000 in 2000. The largest numerical increases, however, were in California and Texas.

The INS analysis also showed that about a third of the illegal immigrant population came from countries whose residents traditionally enter with visas and overstay.

By Suzanne Gamboa
©MMIII, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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