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Groups push immigration reform

By Glenn Evans
Aug. 5, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform staged a press conference in Longview on Monday calling on voters to urge Congress to back a plan that's already considered D.O.A. when the House of Representatives returns from vacation in September.

"We stand here in Longview, today, knowing there are people being treated as second-class families," Longview NAACP President Branden Johnson told some 25 people outside the Longview Public Library. "We ask those of you who are willing to join us in the fight for reform."

Monday's event was one of many planned in Congressional Districts represented by Republicans which were announced last week by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio and other reform backers.

The U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform measure in June. That bill was greeted cooly by leaders in the House before it adjourned until after Labor Day.

The Senate measure doubled the number of U.S. Border Patrol officers along the country's southern border and called for a 700-mile fence - both conservative red meat topics.

It also offered a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million people the government says are here illegally. That element is a non-starter for the House's more conservative members.

"This bill was written, reviewed and supported in a bipartisan manner," local immigration attorney Jose Sanchez told the group. "This is the time we must advocate for immigration reform. We must call, text, email, Facebook message or whatever it takes."

The panel, which also included the local leader of the pro-Obama Organizing for Action, urged listeners to contact U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, in addition to the state's two senators.

Gohmert was hosting a Fox Radio talk show Monday afternoon and not available for comment.

Vik Verma, leader of the local chapter of Organizing for Action, said Senate Bill 744 would grow the gross domestic product by 5.4 percent, boost border security and reduce the national debt by $800 million during the next 20 years.

"For too long, our immigration system has been broken," Verma said. "And legal immigration can't keep up with the demands of our growth. ... Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate by a vote of 68-32. As Congress has now adjourned to August recess, we want to let Sen. (John) Cornyn, Sen. (Ted) Cruz and Rep. Gohmert know the benefits of comprehensive immigration reform."

A local tea party member imbedded in the audience later called the news conference, " ... another pile of misinformation."

Republican Mike Denholm said there are more than double the number of illegal immigrants here than the government claims, more like 25 million of them.

"They're not coming here to be citizens," Denholm said. "They are here to take whatever they can from our economy."

Comprehensive immigration reform is not needed, he said, because the laws on the books now are not being enforced.

Sanchez acknowledged there are differing opinions on how many illegal immigrants are here.

"I'm saying it's 11 million because that's what the government has stated," Sanchez said, noting the last immigration reforms occurred in 1986. "The laws need to be updated, the laws need to be more current and more fair."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other leaders have said the House should rather take up elements within the Senate bill one by one, with border security first.

Sanchez called that approach a waste of resources, given the well-worn arguments each side has delved.

"This issue has been highly debated," he said.



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