How the Texas Legislature can address immigration in its current session

The 88th Texas Legislative Session has begun. Lawmakers will discuss a range of topics related to immigration and Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star program. Jerry Clayton of TPR spoke with Roberto Lopez, community organizer of the Texas Civil Rights Project, about his immigration group’s thoughts in the current session.

Clayton: In terms of the legislature, do you see anything in the area of ​​family separation that has been a big problem here in Texas?

Lopez: (We) detain immigrants by the thousands and keep them in state prisons in terrible conditions, and many of these people, many of these men or fathers, many of them have family members, even if they are not, you know, the biological father, they can take care of other children, and they come here to this country because of a desperate situation, because of climate change, because of economic difficulties, because of local persecution.

As a state, we systematically send thousands and thousands of people to jail. So I think keeping people locked up for a few months with very few resources, what we expect in the upcoming legislative session, will be continued persecution of immigrants across the state, whether they be migrants who cross the border or those who live on border or just Hispanics and immigrants within the country.

And so I think we will continue to see rather a tightening of our policies that continue to keep families separated from each other for longer than, I mean, anything longer than a day, or, you know, keep people out of touch with the outside. the world. out of reach of a child or loved one. I think we will continue to see things get even worse in the upcoming legislative session.

Clayton: Again and again there have been attempts to build a wall on the border. What is your prediction for where these efforts will lead?

Lopez: So we have HB 20 from Rep. Slayton, which will go towards a new border security fund. Governor Abbott has already saved up $4 billion for Operation Lone Star. He used some of that funding to come in and turn in storage boxes, big containers at the border. I saw them in Eagle Pass.

One thing that’s also quite funny, for lack of a better word, unfortunately, is that in Mission, Texas, and in the Rio Grande Valley where I’m from, the construction of the border wall is still going on. I wrote about this a few months ago and showed that President Biden is actually building a border wall in South Texas.

Governor Abbott put on a big show in El Paso recently when he handed a letter to the president. And one of the points of this letter was the resumption of the construction of the border wall. Well, it’s so funny to me because in my community there is, you know, the President of the United States, even though he said that not one foot more of a border wall is going up in the Rio Grande valley.

It happens. And I wish it weren’t, but probably more money will be allocated to build things like a border wall at the state level. The governor tried to do it creatively. But with this new windfall, it could very easily be systematized by May.

Clayton: What would your organization most like to see in this legislative session?

Lopez: You know, border communities are in dire need of investment in infrastructure, investment in healthcare. We are still one of the most underserved counties in the country. We have annual floods that affect the colonies and thousands of neighborhoods on the other side of the border, where there is no proper drainage, sewerage, and even lighting.

It’s 2023 and that should be the focus, not spending $8 billion on more overtime soldiers, more stops. And I hope that instead of continuing to approach him with violence, with more weapons and more stops, we will approach him with a salute and try to improve our borders, and not just turn them into large prison projects.

Copyright 2023 Texas Public Radio. To learn more, visit Texas Public Radio.

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