Texas House Republicans to Feds with HCR 88: Secure US borders and fix immigration!
The following interview with Art Martinez de Vara, Chief of Staff for Texas Representative John Garza, was conducted during the series of interviews conducted by VOCES Action and TexasGOPVote with members of the Hispanic Republican Conference in the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature. Our interview with Art was focused on border security, immigration policy, and the landmark Texas Republican authored House Concurrent Resolution 88 (HCR 88). In addition to serving as Chief of Staff for Representative Garza (Republican, House District 117) who is a driving force behind HCR 88, Art is the Mayor of the City of Von Ormy, Texas and is an Attorney at The Martinez de Vara Law Firm, PLLC in San Antonio. Art has been listed among the 25 Extraordinary Minority Lawyers in Texas Law (Texas Lawyer Magazine), a Rising Legal Star (SceneInSA Magazine) and is a Distinguished Alumni of the National Hispanic Institute. He served on the 2010 and 2008 State GOP Platform Committees and was a 2010 Electoral College GOP Presidential Elector.
Mr. Martinez de Vara had a few minutes to speak with us recently when we were conducting interviews of members of the Hispanic Republican Conference at the Capitol. We spoke with Art about HCR 88 which was authored by Texas Republicans and designed to send a message to the U.S. Federal Government to do its job to secure U.S. borders and fix the U.S. immigration system and policies. In fact, President Obama was in Texas during the same week we interviewed Art about the Republican immigration bill, and Art points out that HCR 88 is critical of the Obama administrations approach. Instead, HCR88 is a call on Congress to create an overarching and complete solution to the immigration problem and not just deal with it in certain individual aspects, and it doesnt call for amnesty. Art provides us with a historical perspective on immigration, illustrates the issues and consequences created as a result of the current policies, and outlines the key points of HCR 88 as the Republican way forward to fixing immigration and securing the border.
Hispanics make up 36% of the Texas population and this percentage is growing. Hispanics share Republican conservative values of fiscal responsibility, faith, hard work, family values, and are pro-life. VOCES Action has been educating and empowering Americans with Hispanic backgrounds, and who hold conservative values, to make more responsible and informed voting decisions.
Adryana Boyne: Hello, we are here on behalf of TexasGOPVote and VOCES Action at the office of Representative John Garza with his Chief of Staff, Mr. Art Matinez de Vara. Thank you for receiving us in this busy time during session.
Art Martinez de Vara: Thank you.
Adryana Boyne: Well, we have a couple questions. We know that President Obama is in Texas this week, and hes promoting his immigration agenda. How would you characterize his approach, and how would you compare that to the approach taken with House Concurrent Resolution 88 that Mr. Garza has authored?
Art Martinez de Vara: Well President Obama is in Texas to promote certain aspects of his immigration policy, and HCR88 is a little bit critical of that approach. HCR88 is a call on Congress to create an overarching and complete solution to the immigration problem and not just deal with it in certain individual aspects. Representative Garza and the co-signers of the resolution believe that there may be piecemeal approaches both from the left and from the right that only within the context of an immigration solution, which will secure the borders, which will prevent a second class or a second run of illegal immigrants into the country. I think the origin of this was the frustration that members of the Texas Legislature had in that one, Texas is feeling the effects of illegal immigration. At the State Legislature were tasked with trying to correct or minimize those harmful effects, but yet since immigration is clearly a federal issue in the Constitution, there is literally nothing that the State Legislature can do that would actually fix the source of the problem. All that theyre left doing is correcting some of the symptoms of the problem. So the resolution is actually a call on Congress to correct the root cause of the problem so that we dont have to deal with these consequences.
Adryana Boyne: Now I see two sides making comments about the House concurrent Resolution 88. I see those that all the time criticize Republicans and conservatives for not doing anything about immigration, and now were seeing here conservative people doing something like you have done, but at the same time we also have some conservative people believing that House concurrent Resolution 88 has something to do with amnesty. Is this true?
Art Martinez de Vara: No, the Resolution does not call for amnesty. Amnesty would be one of those piecemeal approaches. In fact, I think whats unique about the resolution is that its trying have immigration not be a wedge issue, and this is one of the problems we have with several issues. Both parities, or both sides of the political spectrum, sometimes latch onto an issue and polarize it for political effect, or for whatever reason, but the net result is very little gets done, and what were trying to achieve by this resolution is were trying to reign in those forces that are making it a wedge issue and say look, the ills of illegal immigration affect all Americans. There are issues that the conservatives tend to latch on to and highlight. Theres ills that liberals tend to latch on to and highlight, and yet the resolution for both, is the same resolution, and so we need to be focused on the root cause of those problems, and then once we do that, those issues that were concerned with on both sides, can go away.
Adryana Boyne: What is the philosophical foundation of House Concurrent Resolution 88?
Art Martinez de Vara: Well, Representative Garza and the joint authors are fiscal conservatives, and so as fiscal conservatives, we typically approach all issues initially from an economic standpoint, and this one of the things that I think has been missing from the national dialogue on immigration, is that immigration is primarily a economic issue. Migrants come into this county primarily for economic purposes. Thyre being pushed out of their countries of origin because economic need, and in the United States, there are jobs waiting for them and employers waiting to hire them, and therefore, we draw economic migrants because of opportunity. Nobodys fleeing to Ecuador because theres a big base of jobs there, and so the vast majority of illegal immigration is based on this economic push and pull, so what were directing Congress to do, what were asking Congress to do is look at this primarily as an economic issue, which has criminal law consequences, which has social justice consequences, which has border security consequences, but if we approach as solely a border security issue, that doesnt eliminate the economic draw or push and pull into the country, its still going to occur. If we take the less approach and deal with it only as a social justice issue, and we give amnesty, or we pass the DREAM Act in isolation, that doesnt resolve the underlying issue. If we deal with it solely as a criminal law issue, and we arrest everyone and put them in jail and do that, one, its not fiscally conservative, but again, it doesnt resolve the issue. Since the primary driving factors in illegal immigration are economic, the primary solution should also be economic.
Adryana Boyne: In the House Concurrent Resolution 88, there is a phrase that states, and Im reading from the resolution of Mr. Garza here: "Our national interests are poorly served by our broken, embattled, and outdated immigration system, and patchwork attempts to mend its deficiencies will not secure our borders or prepare us to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex global economy…" Can you explain to me what that means, this phrase? Can you expand a little bit more on it?
Art Martinez de Vara: Our current system of immigration is a legacy of a 20th Century immigration policy. At the beginning of the century, when the very first immigration laws were passed to curb Eastern European immigration through the need for immigrant labor in the two World Wars to the Bracero Program in the 1960s, and so its based upon an economic model that no longer exists in the United States, and so what were saying is we need to reevaluate our immigration policies and design them from the ground up based on the modern reflection of the modern global economy. South Texas, for example, which is a part of the state that our office represents bases its economy tremendously upon immigrant labor, whether its legal or illegal. The largest numbers of immigrant populations is in that part of the state. If you look at Arizona and other places that have taken, again, a piecemeal approach, without the underlying reform, theyve suffered great economic ills, which is the result of depopulation, dropping tax pays, and the inability to provide labor in certain sectors of the economy, and so we need to realize and be very honest that there are certain sectors of the Texas economy that rely primarily on immigrant labor, such as the agriculture, construction, and service industry, and if you look at what happened in 1986 with the Reagan Amnesty situation was similar, and what happened that time folks that were immigrants who were primarily employed in those sectors of the economy were suddenly freed to find employment anywhere, and they rapidly went to other sectors of the economy because theyre better paying and theyre less physical, and so what the result was, was a void in labor in those sectors, which drew in a subsequent wave of illegal immigration, and so if we adopt an amnesty policy in the U.S., its just going to provide another wave of illegal immigration as immigrant laborers go to other sectors of the economy. If we create a hard stance where we start deporting people and what not, theres going to be a similar void, which is going to create economic pressures for people to keep coming back, and then we have a revolving door issue, and so a solution which makes sense would revolve some sort of guest worker program, and of course, the devils in the details, but within a guest worker program, we can provide the needed labor source, we can give economic migrants the ability to come to work, we can give employers the needed labor force, plus we can assure that they pay taxes, that they stay in those sectors of the economy and dont compete with U.S. workers, we can provide a mechanism to make sure that American workers get first choice at the jobs. Theres other issues to look at, the pattern of immigration. If you look at early 20th Century immigration, for example, among Italians, it was predominantly male and predominantly seasonal labor, and so the vast majority of Italian immigrants in the early 20th Century American returned to Italy, and we believe strongly that if we had a guest worker program where Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants can come and work seasonally that the pattern would be similar, it would be predominantly male, predominantly seasonal labor force where folks can then return to their country of origin and maintain their families, which is what people prefer. Most people are immigrating not because they want to abandon their country of origin and be American citizens, but because of economic pressures, and its typically less expensive to maintain your families in your country of origin and work seasonally. The current system, which provides a very strong barrier or difficult barriers to cross the border... as much as people think, it is a very difficult thing to do, to cross the border, its expensive, youre often dealing with criminal organizations and what not...
Migrants often get into the United States, finally, and find that, they find a job, and then there is an inherent risk in returning to their country of origin to be reunited with their family, seasonally, whether at Christmas, or whatever, and so ultimately, they tend in large numbers to make the decision to rather than going back to the country of origin, bringing their spouse, bringing their children, bringing their brothers and sisters... so you end up with chain migration, which is exacerbating the immigration policy... So our current policy of immigration, or one of the main causes of illegal immigration... I know conservatives are often concerned with the fiscal impact of the children of immigrants on our school system, on our public health system, and again, this is exacerbated by the fact that immigrants bring families together through chain illegal immigration, whereas if they could cross the border freely, and maintain their families in their countries of origin, we would see that phenomenon in much much reduced numbers, and the actually fiscal impact on the country would be much less. So, again, we think an economic model, thinking smartly about what are our labor needs, where our sources of labor are, what benefits that has for our economy, to minimize the tax impact of immigrants in our community, can be done in a smart way, I think, both sides of the aisle would be satisfactory. Now I did not say "ideal" or whatever everybody really wanted, but if we want a true and honest and a real solution, that secures our borders, protects our economy, and that we can move forward with as far as "social justice", I think thats the basis of it as far as economics, making sure that its a win-win scenario...
Adryana Boyne: And I did see that actually whats important is that what the community understands is that this resolution was written by a Republican and is also co-authored by Republicans, they are conservatives, moral and fiscal conservatives, but we need also to respect the rule of law, and I know you are an attorney, and you care for the rule of law, and you care for really to fix the broken immigration system, right?
Art Martinez de Vara: Absolutely, and you know, in other aspects of the resolution that are focused on this, as we talked about that we should not have amnesty, that we need to insure that those immigrants who have waited patiently outside of the country, in line, and have done the proper thing, get priority. That those who havent immigrated legally have some form of punishment, whether its a fine, whether its a waiting period before they can re-apply, or something of that nature, and we have to look also at the current system of immigration as national origin preferences, and that somebody that wishes to immigrate from Mexico or the Phillipines can wait 15-20 years for a visa, whereas someone from Europe waits approximately 18 months to three years. And so, again, in 2011, we need to make sure that our immigration system is flexible enough to adjust to wherever the present source of immigrants is coming from, because again that creates a disparity and an inequity in the system where some people throw their hands up and say "I dont want to wait 15 years to be united with my mother, my son, or what not, and they choose the course of illegal immigration.
Adryana Boyne: As a conservative I get a lot of questions, because Im Hispanic just like you are, and you probably have heard that many people in our conservative circles ask us "which part of illegal do people not understand?" and certainly we understand that there is the rule of law but we also have to explain to the people that, as you mentioned, there are not enough visas, there is not a prompt way for people to come here for those workers, that there is the imminent need of a guest worker program, for people in construction, for people in other fields of jobs, that the immigrants who do not want to receive entitlements, but who want to progress and to serve this country, help this country, are willing to receive [a guest worker visa], its just not something that is available right now, right?
Art Martinez de Vara: Thats true, and you know I think our immigration policy has strayed from our core principles. We are a country of immigrants, we are the only country in the world that identifies ourselves not race or specific culture, but by the unifying fact that were all a melting pot of immigrants. Our Statue of Liberty says bring me your poor huddled masses yearning to be free and clearly our immigration policy doesnt match that because were illegalizing to a large degree the very folks who reenergize America. Thats what makes America great is that we have generation after generation of new immigrants who remember the old country, who remember Despotism and theyve seen it, theyve seen socialism and communism and they come from countries where theres no political speech, and where they cant proactive their religion freely, and they come to America searching for a better life, and they fall in love with it, and those are the strongest Americans. We always say in church that the strongest members are the converts, and its the same thing, the immigrants come, and they are the ones who embrace the country, the current flow of immigrants, theyre very conservative people, theyre coming here to work hard, to care for their families, theyre Christian God believing people, and we need to find a place in our society for them. We have to make sure that we respect the rule of law, that we respect a fair and non-biased immigration policies, that we protect our economy, that we protect our borders because there is an element on the border that is criminal, that is terrorist, and we need to make sure that we separate the forest from the trees, and unfortunately, the more immigration becomes a wedge issue, the more were unable to resolve the problem. A clear example is we have folks on one side of the aisle clearly articulating the need, the danger on the border, the destabilization, and yet we have an administration that claims the border is secure. Its like it doesnt make sense. We live in South Texas, we see the day to day realities, we see folks on both sides, we know the people, they go to our chutes, they go to our schools. We know the people who employ them, we see the whole issue and were just trying to present a reasonable, sensible solution, so that we can move forward and strengthen our economy and or country and our borders.
Adryana Boyne: One of the things that weve talked here about is the fact that conservatives care about the economy. Youve already approached that issue, very important, the economy, but in my organization, were very strong on the social values, pro-life, pro-family, pro Second Amendment rights. Those things are very important to us, and one of the things that I mention is that we need a dialogue, you use the word dialogue, we need to come to a solution after a dialogue, and then the solution may not please everyone 100% but that solution will be that those people who actually decide to keep, theyre going to recognize that, in this case, the Republicans, fought for them to be able to find a solution, and when they go to the election polls, if they ever, some of them become Americans, some of them do, those who choose, and those in which the country allows them, will vote for our values and elect conservative legislators, as I mention to the people, instead of risking it by getting rid of people who will be bringing a value for voting and those people who are listening to the deceiving words of the Democrats that only they care for the Hispanics or the immigrants, which is not the case. Its very important for me to leave clear that conservatives are supporting this resolution that is the economy, that they are people who have social values and that we need to put it on the table for dialogue. Well, I appreciate very much for this time Art and thank you very much for this interview.
Art Martinez de Vara: Thank you.