State considers new immigration policy
They work blue-collar jobs throwing away our trash, cutting our lawns, bussing our tables and cleaning our homes. They wait relentlessly at train track intersections to find work. They are worth billions, yet they are a major component of the working poor that drain tremendous amounts of dollars from taxpayers’ pockets. They are the 2 million illegal immigrants that the Federal Government estimates populate Texas.
Half of the 2 million immigrants are distributed between the Houston and Dallas metropolitan area, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Less than 5 percent live in the traditionally assumed Hispanic capital of Texas, San Antonio, with an additional 20 percent in the Rio Grande Valley. Their numbers increased by nearly 300,000 in five years, and an estimated 70 percent of the 26,000 births at Houston and Dallas public hospitals in 2005 were to undocumented mothers.
And with Congress failing to enact comprehensive immigration reform, illegal immigrants are poised to become one of the hottest issues before the Texas Legislature.
Some Republicans and the influential Texas Association of Business want no action from state lawmakers, especially if it involves employer sanctions. Democratic Hispanic legislators say Conservatives, such as state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, are using Latinos as a "political pi’ntilde;ata."
Numerous bills have been filed, many concentrating on restricting state and local services. A legislative caucus has proposed harsh sanctions on businesses that employ illegal immigrants. Immigrants are worth at least $17.7 billion to the state’s economy, claims Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. She illustrates that the taxes they pay cover the cost of state services, but they are draining nearly 1 billion dollars on local governments. Berman states that Strayhorn’s report underestimates the situation.
Along with employment sanctions, some of the legislative proposals involving illegal immigrants include birthright citizenship, remittance fees, in-state college tuition, stricter voting regulations, and marriage and drivers licenses. Berman’s bill would deny automatic citizen access to state programs for children born to illegal immigrants. Within the realm of remittance fees, legislation would levy an 8 percent fee on the remittances that are sent from Texas to Mexico and Latin America, although U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens could ask for a refund. The fee would raise about $250 million, which would go to hospitals that provide health care for illegal immigrants.
Concerning in-state college tuition, several bills, including one by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, would eliminate in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant children who attend public colleges. They would be required to pay the higher tuition of foreign students.
Several bills would require proof of citizenship for a person to vote but similar legislations have failed in the past. In regard to driver’s licenses, legislation would allow immigrants to obtain a Texas driver’s license by using a similar document from a foreign country. Supporters say illegal immigrants are already here and need insurance. Opponents say issuing licenses could pose a security risk.
Legalizing immigration has many counteracting perspectives. Once immigrants cross into our country, the main goal is to gain citizenship. Although this usually results in immigrants living here tax-free, citizenship is the ultimate goal.
Rather than simply throwing out all illegal immigrants, we should strive to createaid programs for immigrants whom reside in the United States presently.