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Immigration Coalition Strengthens
By Jim Lane

Although North Texas reactionaries continue to stoke the flames of hysteria over undocumented workers, a growing progressive coalition is trumping them. Republican legislator Jerry Madden chaired a hearing in Richardson, just outside Dallas, on February 1. Its stated purpose was to "investigate" the level of cooperation between Texas law enforcement agencies, but Madden's obvious design was to boost his own re-election campaign in his home district with a "get tough" presentation.

His press release said, "We can't wait any longer. The federal government has dropped the ball and we are taking it upon ourselves to make our streets safer. We need to know whether or not local and state jails are cooperating with federal immigration authorities, and take necessary steps to streamline that process to make it more effective. It is shameful to think that convicted felons, who are in this country illegally, may get a pass on deportation after serving time because one government agency isn't talking to the other."

Once the hearing was announced, Texas progressives began drawing together. Delia Castillo, President of the Dallas Peace Center, reported cooperation from her own "Dismantling Racism Team," Dallas Area Interfaith, Job with Justice, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, and religious leaders from virtually every faith.

Although North Texas has had a number of large and militant demonstrations for human rights, movement leaders have been criticized for demagoguery and failure to build an effective coalition. Before the hearings on February 1, however, a press conference arranged by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) showed far more strength and diversity than ever before. Civil liberties, community, religious, and labor organizations took part. The Jobs with Justice spokesperson, a UAW member, announced that leaders of the SEIU, UFCW, and UNITE-HERE were present and standing strong with the progressive coalition. "The solution to immigration problems is organizing," he told reporters, "And these unions are organizing immigrants, documented or not!"

In English and Spanish, the LULAC press conference took the high ground with a dignified and reasonable show of solidarity. When the actual hearing began, with an "invited speakers" list starting with 15 law enforcement experts followed by a single religious spokesperson, progressives waited for public testimony to begin. The Dallas newspaper reported on February 2 that the hearing had failed to clarify any case for change in Texas law enforcement. In fact, progressive State Representative Garnet Coleman, an African American from Houston, was quoted as questioning, "...whether his colleagues were using the issue to gain political leverage."


Representative Roberto Alonzo (left) was one of the pro-civil rights voices on the joint committee meeting chaired by Republican Jerry Madden (center, right)




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