Immigration still crucial in mayoral race
Despite a reduction in immigration, the issue has been a hot topic in 2009 mayoral races.
As the national recession continues, immigration in Texas is declining at a significant rate. Rising unemployment and lower levels of business activity are deterring immigrants from crossing the border.
In a Houston Chronicle article, Hope Yen discussed drastic differences in levels of immigration. According to a study released by the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of emmigrating Mexicans fell by 249,000 from March 2008 to March 2009. This is nearly 60 percent lower than the previous year.
Texas is seeing levels of immigration as low as they were one decade ago. Most immigrants in the U.S. and Texas are staying because jobs might not be available at home, while others are waiting for an economic recovery.
According to the data, the number of immigrants who returned home was roughly 450,000 – a number that has not changed for some time.
Meanwhile, Houston is looking to strengthen its crime fighting efforts, turning over illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
Houston plans to combine the efforts of the Houston Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. This plan is designed to sweep Houston jails for illegal immigrants using a federal database, and will train jailers in questioning possible illegal criminals inside the Houston jail system.
Each mayoral candidate not only desires a balance that fights crime and removes illegal criminals, but also one that avoids wasting resources and profiling.
City Controller and mayoral candidate Annise Parker wants to ensure we do not engage in racial profiling, a practice known to lower community cooperation with police officers.
‘The city should participate in the program and have designated individuals trained to identify dangerous illegal immigrants and coordinate that information with ICE,’ Parker told Houston Chronicle. ‘It is our responsibility, as local elected officials, to try to find a balance in protecting our people from predators and maintaining respect for those people who are here peacefully, working hard and contributing to our economy and our tax base.’
Gene Locke, UH alumnus and 2009 mayoral candidate, said he wants balance, but views immigration enforcement as a priority.
‘We need to have a policy that basically says if you commit a crime and you’re not in this country legally, you will be deported,’ Locke said to the Chronicle. ‘The bottom line is that we need to have our police department working closely with other federal agencies to identify those people who are committing crimes in this city, incarcerating them, and if they’re not here legally, deporting them.’
Mayoral candidate Peter Brown supports the inter-agency plan. But, he wants to focus on police officer training and ensure that police will not resort to racial profiling.
The economic downturn and decrease in immigration are issues Houstonians will continue to tackle well into the next mayoral agenda. Electing the strongest candidate will be crucial toward meeting our goals of lower crime and an improved city.
Andrew Taylor is an economics junior and may be reached at [email protected]