Monday, February 19, 2018

Petitions urge Gohmert to back DREAM Act

By Glenn Evans
Jan. 11, 2018 at 12:14 a.m.

John Gibson and Emily Pinal drop off signed petitions Tuesday to a worker at U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert's office in Tyler. The hundreds of signed petitions were in support of a "clean" DREAM act. Chelsea Purgahn/Tyler Morning Telegraph

Petitions urging U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert to back a law that would replace President Barack Obama's now-defunct executive order on undocumented immigrants who arrived as children did not get a warm reception from the Tyler Republican.

The roughly 6,000 petitions from East Texas, at least 1,000 from Gregg County, call for a "clean" DREAM Act, along the lines of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

"Clean" means no border wall attached to the legislation, no curtailment of the immigration lottery system or provisions that allow immigrants to bring family members here.

President Donald Trump rescinded Obama's DACA rule in the fall, but he set a March 5 expiration date to give Congress time to pass legislation to replace it.

The DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — was a federal proposal that offered many of the same protections as DACA but was never approved by Congress. The term "Dreamer" is used by some to refer to those who are a part of the DACA program.

" 'Dreamers' are part of our culture here in East Texas," petition worker Josh Gibson said, referring to the immigrants affected by DACA. "They are teachers; they are nurses; they are firefighters. They are in the service industry, and they do need to stay here and not have their families up-ended."

Gohmert released a statement in response to the petitions, saying DACA has led to bad outcomes for other immigrants who illegally cross the Southern border.

The congressman began his statement by welcoming the "opinions and thoughts of constituents." It also says that talk of going easy on the childhood arrivals has given a boost to the child sex trafficking industry.

"I should again point out that every time any type of DACA legalization is mentioned, we have greater surges of people coming into the country illegally," Gohmert wrote. "And with each surge, lives are lost, and, sadly, a significant number of young girls and boys are molested or forced into a living nightmare of sex trafficking."

He also questions the petitions' validity.

"Many have names written in the same handwriting and ink, and there are numerous unsigned, blank petitions in the stack," Gohmert wrote.

Many of the petitions came from DREAM Act supporters in the Longview area.

"From Gregg County, I would say at least 1,000," Gibson said. "I would say between 1,000 and 1,500 just from the Longview area. ... I know (Harrison County Democratic Chairwoman) Maxine Golightly got a couple from the Marshall area."

Dalila Reynosa-Gonzalez flew back Wednesday to East Texas after delivering the petitions to Gohmert's Capitol office. She said she was able to meet with Gohmert after waiting three hours while he huddled with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

"It was heartbreaking," she said, describing Gohmert's insistence on calling undocumented immigrants "illegal aliens."

"He said, 'Oh, no-no-no. They broke the law. They are not supposed to be here,' " she said.

Reynosa-Gonzalez is a leader in a group called Justice for Our Neighbors, which on Jan. 21 will discuss a deportation preparedness plan.

Longview Democrat Mary Lou Tevebaugh, who collected petitions at her law office, said she plans to attend that contingency planning meeting.

"Because, if these young people are deported, many of them have children of their own," she said. "And some have purchased homes here."

Reynosa-Gonzalez said her parents arrived here illegally with her two older siblings who are now part of DACA. She was born here and is a citizen, but she bristled at the phrase Gohmert coined for her group of citizens: "anchor babies."

"I'm a human being," she said. "He calls himself a Christian. I know my parents are honest, hard-working individuals. And he doesn't see us. ... This is not the Christian thing to do, to deport these individuals to a country that they are not familiar with (and) ... maybe not even know how to speak the language."

The congressman did not respond in an email to Reynosa-Gonzalez questioning his faith.

In his statement, Gohmert repeated his long-held stance that the border must be secured before he will turn to other immigration issues.

"The wall must be built where it's needed," he wrote. "And the border must be secured. Then we can work something out regarding those currently here in the United States."



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