Sometimes, my heart bleeds...
A week or two ago, Chris Bell met with bloggers in Houston. Here's part of a writeup from Stace Medellin:
Let me make sure I have this straight: Chris Bell thinks that immigration isn't an issue? Period? That sure seems to be what it sounds like, particularly with the context that Medellin gave Bell's remarks.
One of the bloggers asked about the "I" issue, immigration. Apparently, it was a problem to the questioner. According to Chris Bell, "why should we make a Republican issue our issue?" Bell also asked the question, "Has anyone at this table lost a job that was taken up by an immigrant?" Now, that's the type of response ALL of the candidates should be using.
I think anyone running for office in the state of Texas should have spent some time thinking about where he or she wants to take Texas. This includes thinking about our border region, and immigration is obviously an issue for the border and the state. While it's a federal issue, anyone who wants to be governor of Texas should have thought about the issue.
Perhaps Bell is quoted out of context (although Jason Stanford linked to Medellin's post, which seems like tacit approval), but I read Medellin's post at the same time I was finishing Hard Line. Hard Line is written by Ken Ellingwood, a former LA Times reporter, who relied on his reporting to offer a portrait of the border in Arizona and California. Ellingwood wrote a remarkably evenhanded book that presents the point of view of everyone involved on the border in Arizona and California. I highly recommend it.
Does Bell not think there's a problem? Ellingwood elicits real sympathy for ranchers whose lands are trampled every night, and who are consequently afraid to sleep at night (in the midst of immigrants, there are also drug traffickers). These innocent bystanders have their livelihood and their quality of life threatened. Frankly, I was shocked at what some people who live on the border have had to go through.
Way more importantly, what about the fact that in 5 years in the late 1990s** (I believe the book was written in 2002), almost 1000 immigrants in just California and Arizona suffered horrific, gruesome dehyrdration and heat stroke deaths. One might agree or disagree with their decision to enter America, but surely no one deserves to die such a disgusting death simply for immigrating. How many more have died since?
[For comparison's sake, let's compare the number of people affected by the death penalty and immigration. About 150 people were executed in the state of Texas during a similar time period. In other words, magnitudes more innocent people are dead from the status quo of immigration compared to convicted murderers who get the death penalty.]
In short, Bell's words are not the words of a statesman. Immigration is not a Republican issue. It's an issue which demands the attention of serious political leaders. I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that ignoring the problem raises serious issues as to whether Bell is ready to lead the great state of Texas.
UPDATE: ** The death toll spiked because border enforcement increased around 93-95 (eg Operation Gatekeeper), forcing illegal immigrants to take more dangerous routes through the desert. Those programs have mostly stayed in place since this time frame, so I assume that the death toll is similar.
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