Message to Simpson on border crisis: 'Constituents come first'
July 22, 2014 at 11 p.m.
The tea party conservative representing Longview in Austin was criticized from the right Wednesday as he advocated compassion for immigrants and outlined legal steps that can be taken at the state level.
Republican state Rep. David Simpson also told an audience of about 160 people about flights from abuse and sexual slavery that state and federal officials described as a big part of what's driven thousands of Central Americans to the Texas border.
"I believe your constituents should come first when you talk about people who are impacted," Terri Hill of Longview said during a town hall session that followed a slide show of Simpson's recent tour of the southern border. "You are to represent us, and we have children. These (immigrants) are people that are coming in with leprosy, tuberculosis, polio."
Nearly 10 minutes after the two-hour event, which was in the Bridges building at Mobberly Baptist Church, about half the audience remained as discussion continued on the issue.
Simpson's combined approach of compassion for children beset by predators tempered with more stern action along the border wasn't always what the crowd wanted to hear.
A letter sent Monday from the state Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee chairman to Simpson and fellow House members reported three cases each of tuberculosis and H1N1 flu and "minimal" cases of chickenpox and some scabies, lice and rashes among the so-called unaccompanied immigrant children.
"(Texas Department of State Health Services) continuously performs surveillance to detect disease outbreaks," the letter from Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, said.
"I've got four kids and a fifth one on the way," Ben Denson of Gilmer told Simpson from a forum microphone. "These (Central American) kids have scabies and influenza, viral pneumonia, leprosy. These kids are going to be part of the school system. ... They are bleeding Texas (Democrat) blue."
Simpson maintained a defense of the children he saw during his trip the first week of July.
"These children are fodder in this," he said. "They are being assaulted. ... I don't believe in amnesty. I don't believe in treating people who've crossed the border as a murderer. ... I do think there should be a path, a legal path, for naturalization or citizenship. We're a nation of immigrants."
Simpson also was skeptical of the notion voiced by some that a special session of the Texas Legislature would accomplish much in addressing the border dilemma.
"I think it would be, probably, ineffective," he said. "You haven't been down there to see 150 people (in the House of Representatives) working as a committee."
"Then what are you there for?" Hill asked, repeating her call for his support of a special session in Austin, a state tea party cry rising in recent weeks.
"Not at this time," Simpson replied. "I think it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars."
Thomas Rolland of White Oak reminded Simpson of his historical support from much of the audience, some of whom had worked for his campaigns.
"Don't take what we say personally," Rolland told Simpson. "We need our borders protected. We need a lot of things, but what we don't need is more people at the trough. These people are not coming in with a good, Christian heart. Most of them are criminals, anyway."
Simpson had said state agencies could play a role by ensuring the immigrants comply with promises they make, after processing at the border, to appear before an immigration judge.
"We need to stop the freebies," he added. "Those are things we can do as a state."
The lawmaker didn't specify what the freebies are, but during his slide show he described an American who immigrated legally who complained to him that the immigrants receive health insurance and food stamps. That woman also was opposed to the policy granting citizenship to people born here.
"She said, unless we change that (law), they are just going to keep on coming," Simpson said, later adding, "I know we all feel passionately about it. I think that most of the problem has got to be solved in Washington."
Simpson again blamed a two-fold cause for the crowds at the border - a 2008 law aimed at slowing sexual slave trafficking which delays court action, and misinterpretation of President Barack Obama's 2012 executive order granting a two-year stay of deportation action for people already here since childhood.
"I think it's the present administration's policy of sending these people practically everywhere ... and not resolving this at the border," he added.