Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Re-Entering Immigration Battle In Texas

Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:45 pm (PDT)
Posted on Sunday, April 20, 2008 - Tyler Morning Telegraph
Leo Berman Re-Entering Immigration Battle In Texas

Appropriately, the first salvo will take place on San Jacinto Day.

On Monday, State Rep. Leo Berman hopes to begin a new "battle for Texas independence" when he appears before the House State Affairs Committee.

The Tyler Republican pledges to re-introduce the immigration reform bills he authored last session, despite opposition from Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas. And he'll tell Swinford so Monday, when he testifies in Austin before Swinford's State Affairs Committee.

Swinford prevented those bills from emerging from committee in 2007, saying immigration is a federal matter.

Berman disagrees.

"According to the oath that we take at the beginning of every session, we are required to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and all laws of the United States and the state of Texas," Berman says. "It's our obligation to Texas taxpayers to do exactly that. In the case of illegal aliens, we can't depend on the United States Congress to do it for us."

That's why Berman will be reintroducing several measures aimed at curbing illegal immigration. Some will be modeled on efforts in neighboring states that have had some success, he says.

Oklahoma, for example, passed a sweeping immigration reform bill last year.

"But Oklahoma's success has created additional problems for Texas," Berman says. "Thousands of illegal aliens are moving south, across the Red River, into Texas. And a bill that passed in Arizona last year, making it almost impossible for illegal aliens to get a job in that state, has them moving back to Mexico, or east to Texas."

He contends that the number of illegal immigrants in Texas is nearing 2 million, due to reforms in those two states.

The measures he plans to author or co-author include:

a.. Penalties for businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants.

a.. A challenge to the concept of "birthright citizenship" for the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.

a.. Ending all public assistance benefits for illegal immigrants.

a.. Empowering state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

a.. Taxing the $6 billion per year sent to Mexico from Texas by illegal immigrants, and setting that money aside for indigent health care.

a.. Preventing illegal immigrants from filing lawsuits.

a.. Making English the official language of Texas.

a.. Requiring photo IDs for voting.

The burden of illegal immigration on state, county and local budgets justifies the measures, Berman says.

"As of February 2008, there were 12,000 illegal aliens in the Texas prison system," he says. "There are many more in county and municipal jails, and illegal aliens make up the bulk of violent gangs in major cities across the United States and Texas. And across the state, school districts demand more money to build new schools at an enormous cost to home and other property owners. This works counter to our legislative effort to reduce school property taxes. Someone has to pay the bill."

Berman doesn't expect a warm reception from Swinford on Monday. Nor does he think his arguments will persuade the powerful committee chairman to support his legislation.

But he does have a new strategy for the upcoming 2009 Legislature. He'll bypass Swinford and State Affairs completely.

"We've already talked to House Speaker (Tom) Craddick, and if a bill has to do with repealing in-state tuition for illegal aliens, for example, then we'll send it to the Higher Education Committee," Berman says. "That way we'll get around Swinford."

Berman will appear before the State Affairs Committee in Austin at 1 p.m. Monday.

Early Returns is the political observations column of staff writer Roy Maynard, who can be reached at 903-596-6291 or at

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