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Anti-Immigrant Policies of Right-Wing Texas Legislators Blasted

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - Congressman Tom DeLay (D-Sugarland) told a group of his constituents that he thinks the laws allowing "illegal immigrants" to be treated in area hospitals and for their children to attend public schools should be repealed. He opposes children of "illegal immigrants" born in this country "automatically" becoming U.S. citizens. DeLay also advocates that the National Guard and police departments "pick up" immigrants and put them in tents if there was no space available in detention facilities. Some suggested this sounds a lot like the conditions at Guantanamo. His remarks were characterized as "outrageous" and were aired on several local TV news programs today. The TV stations also reported that he declined to comment when they contacted his office for clarification.

This came on the heels of Mr. DeLay's announcement that he favors legislation which would withhold federal funding from cities such as Houston that do not enforce immigration law. He criticized the Chief of the Houston Police Department for following a policy in effect since 1992 which forbids officers from enforcing immigration laws in most cases. Houston Mayor Bill White supports continuing the policy so that police officers can focus on violent criminals and leave immigration enforcement to federal authorities.

DeLay supports legislation proposed by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) which would allow "illegal immigrants" to become "guest workers" for up to three years and then would require them to return home. Cornyn, Kyl and DeLay all advocate "securing our nation's borders" by increasing border patrols. DeLay does not believe the proposed "guest workers" should be allowed to bring their families. Some people thought this could be called a "Leave all the children behind" policy. He also does not believe people who are currently "illegal immigrants" should be allowed to become "guest workers."

Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have proposed a program in which immigrants could work toward becoming legal residents and then citizens of the United States. DeLay opposes this legislation and gave his personal guarantee that it would "not do very well in the House."

U.S Representative John Culberson (R-Houston) introduced legislation last week that would allow governors to "establish and deploy armed citizen militias on the Canadian and Mexican borders." Militia members would be able to detain ordinary immigrants. The Houston Chronicle points out that "the militias would be official versions, with police powers, of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps." This is the group that gained notoriety by patrolling the Arizona border and has announced plans to come to Houston in the fall. The group has been called "vigilantes" by President Bush. The legislation is co-sponsored by 46 House members and calls for $6.8 billion in Homeland Security funding. The aim would be to deputize hundreds of thousands of citizens as auxiliary border guards. The Houston Chronicle points out that the proposal distracts the Congress from enacting more constructive legislation to manage the problems of immigration. The article concludes "The answer to understaffed federal security agencies…lies in allocating federal money to hire more professionals. The answer to our nation's immigration problems is not nearly so plain. Only one thing is certain: It does not involve civilians with guns."

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