I am committed to immigration reform. I believe it is the primary domestic issue facing this nation. Regrettably, I must oppose the bill passed by the Senate, because its proposed militarization of the border and its call for more fence will not stem the flow of undocumented immigrants entering our country.
I grew up on the border, and until recently, border towns in Mexico and the United States shared a common economic and cultural vitality. Now we have border fences, and they don't work. They harm the environment, inconvenience everyone and promote fear between neighbors. The Senate bill perpetuates an environment of fear and separation, and as one of our greatest Presidents said, that is the only thing we have to fear. I will not compromise my commitment to my border constituents for reasons of expedience. Thus, on this issue, I could not remain silent as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus endorsed the Senate-passed bill. For that reason, I tendered my resignation.
Opponents of serious immigration reform are extracting a pound of flesh in this process by conditioning a pathway to citizenship on the construction of more ineffective border fence. For some legislators it is easy to give up the pound of flesh when it’s not their flesh. In this case the communities paying the price are those in the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and El Paso, and those along the borders of New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The Senate proposes to build fences and double the number of border patrol agents. Yet, this same Congress, allowed the sequester to go into effect, threatening furloughs for existing agents and denying them the necessary resources to do their job. I have met many South Texas Border Patrol agents and they are among the hardest working and most committed individuals I know. Doubling the Border Patrol force, with the threat of furloughs and lesser pay still looming, is not the answer. A border security force is essential-- it must be of the first quality, not quantity.
The real solution is a healthy Mexican economy and a Mexico which is free of cartel violence. If Mexican nationals have high paying jobs they will not need to immigrate here. Only by helping our Mexican partner with resources to fight drug cartels and fostering border trade will we stem the tide of illegal immigration. Fences, walls and fear have never worked and never will. Mexico is a friend, neighbor and one of our top three trading partners. The US-Mexico border should not remind us of places like East Berlin, West Berlin, North Korea and South Korea.
President Obama recently proposed an initiative for Africa; I propose a greater initiative here on our own borders. We must redirect this misguided militarization of the US-Mexico border to promote effective and humane security for citizens of both countries, and to enhance the robust trade relationship which we both share. This addresses the real root cause of our illegal immigration and insecurity problems. It restores security in a cost effective way, restores our borders, and creates jobs not only in Mexico but in the US. And it is the right thing to do.