February 15, 2007

Diverse Coalition Pledge Unity and Civility on Immigration Debate


For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 15, 2007

~ Vow to fight anti-immigration legislation legislatively, legally, & economically ~

Austin, Texas -- A diverse and broad-based group of Texas business and political leaders announced today the formation of a coalition that is committed to opposing the onslaught of anti-immigrant legislation currently working its way through the Texas Legislature.

The coalition includes:
the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC),
the Texas Association of Business (TAB),
the Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC),
the Texas Employers for Immigration Reform (TEIR),
the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC),
the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF),
and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The formation of this extended coalition builds upon the successful efforts of MALC and TAB last August to reach common ground with regard to contentious issue of immigration.

State Representative, Veronica Gonzales, a member of MALC and a leader from the Rio Grande Valley, praised the broad-based nature of the coalition, saying, "We will fight divisive and unconstitutional anti-immigration legislation in three ways: legislatively, legally, and economically through our valued business communities."

In August, MALC and TAB urged Congress to do its job and pass a comprehensive immigration reform package. Similarly, this coalition believes comprehensive immigration reform must originate in Washington, not Austin.

Bill Hammond, President of the TAB, suggested that the business community intended to play a significant role in shifting the immigration debate away from states and back to the federal government, where it belongs. "Unless and until the U.S. Congress enacts comprehensive immigration reform, the TAB calls on the Texas Legislature to not pass any legislation dealing with immigration, especially in regard to legislation that could add burdens to employers."

State Representative, Rafael Anchía, a member of MALC and a leader from Dallas, agreed saying, “We want to stop divisive and misguided legislation that has been introduced at the state level, but deals with issues that need to be resolved at the federal level”.

The coalition also affirmed their unified and unqualified support for increasing the nation's commitment to border security.

State Representative Pete Gallego, Chairman of MALC, said, “As the person who represents two-thirds of the Texas-Mexico border, I can assure you we are committed to border security. We need to protect Texans from terrorists, murders, drug dealers and criminals, not innocent dishwashers, homebuilders, waitresses, nannies and maids.”

The coalition is also united in calling on Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Tom Craddick to defeat all anti-immigrant proposals before the Legislature this session.

Specifically, anti-immigrant bills cited by the coalition include, but are not limited to, the following bills:

• HB 28 by Representative Leo Berman of Tyler that would prohibit U.S. citizen children of "illegal aliens" from receiving any state benefits like health care, public education, and public housing.

• HB 29 by Representative Leo Berman of Tyler that would impose an 8% fee on money transfers to Mexico and Central and South America.

• HB 904 by Representative Bill Zedler of Arlington that would prohibit cities from building or operating day labor facilities.

• HB 906 by Representative Bill Zedler of Arlington that muddles current law and increases the likelihood that immigrants will be victimized by providers not qualified to assist them with matters related to immigration law.

Representative Anchía summed up the goals of the coalition by saying, “The diverse makeup of this coalition is a testament to the importance and urgency of the issue. We have come together to urge the federal government to pass comprehensive immigration reform that puts willing employers together with willing workers in a legal program that will bring to the surface workers who are currently underground."

Founded in 1973, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus is a 501(c) (6) non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of 43 members of the Texas House of Representatives committed to addressing the issues that Latinos face across the state of Texas.

Adrianna Bernal

Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?