Monday, January 28, 2008

The Truth About the Immigration Situation

Dear Neighbors,

Over the last month, I have met with numerous neighbors throughout Texas House District 127, and it has become inevitable that one question keeps coming up: What is your position on illegal immigration?

I find that this question is constantly asked because of the half-truths that the Republican leadership is reporting on a local and national level, and I believe the Republican leadership is more interested in causing division than creating solutions. I would like to offer my 26 years of experience working with the Department of Homeland Security to provide some background to the issue, as well as some common sense to this discussion.

In answering this question, allow me to use the Houston District as an example of where it is my feelings on this issue come. According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, the city of Houston and the surrounding area is home to an estimated 1.25 million so-called illegal aliens. So, let us begin with the fact that in 1986 the US Congress (and signed by Republican Ronald Reagan) approved the first legalization program which allowed individuals who were unlawfully in the United Stated as of January 1, 1982 to become temporary residents of the United States.

The condition of this residency was that these individuals had to learn English and pass a Civics Examination within a two-year period after their initial registration. If they complied with this requirement, their status would be changed to Lawful Permanent Resident or LPR. The initial governmental prediction was that the program would be completed within one year; however, this goal was not obtainable due to the high volume of individuals applying for the program. Subsequently, the program was extended.

During this legalization program the Houston District Legalization Center processed 105,000 cases and made a commitment to all these individuals that if they fulfilled the requirements they would become LPRs and eventually, US Citizens. At that time they would be able to petition for their family members to also become residents (Note: The first of these cases was accepted in 1987 and the last case was processed in 1989). After being assured by the government of the United States, a number of individuals who had been approved as Temporary Residents had begun to make plans for their families.

So again in theory, the first of these individuals would become LPRs in the best case, in 1990, and in the worse case, 1992; however, as previously mentioned, no one anticipated the number of cases that would be presented. This resulted in another delay in the processing of these cases.

In truth, a number of these individuals received their LPR status in 1995 and began the process of petitioning for their families to become lawful residents. Considering that the average family household consisted of 5 members, this resulted in an estimated 420,000 applications for LPR status being filed within the Houston District alone. (105,000 X 4= 420,000).

In 1996, the United States Congress passed (and Bill Clinton signed) the 1996 Immigration Reform Act that restricted the number of Immigrant Visas that were to be granted worldwide to 360,000 per year. This action resulted in, and contributed to, an existing back-log of applications and these individuals were told that they would need to wait for a period of 6 to 14 years before their visa would become available under the Family Visa category. And this would include the original 420,000 who were already waiting. At present time the United State Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that the back-log of pending applications numbers 7.7 million.

As you can see, out of the 1.25 million undocumented individuals that are estimated to be in the Houston area, an estimated 420,000 (one-third) have already complied with existing regulations, have still kept the faith with the government of the United States and are still awaiting decisions to be made in their cases; however, are still deemed “illegal.”.

Please understand that we are speaking of only one program of many that are under the authority of USCIS; however, if we apply the circumstances within the Houston area to that of the nation we can begin to see that there is more information regarding the alleged 12 million undocumented persons in the U.S. that has yet be brought to light by all parties involved in this complex problem. It is time to create a solution based on facts, rather than on divisive rhetoric and punitive policies.

In my estimation, the United States has failed to keep faith with these families, while purposely adding to an ever-growing back-log, and it is for these reasons that I am in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform policy that addresses the continued back-log of resident/citizenship applications, that addresses border and workplace enforcement, and that provides a path to legalization for those who have been here at least 5 years, pay fines and fees, have played by the rules while they have been here, and that meet other stringent guidelines. But we cannot have one piece of this solution without the other.

My parents taught me that if a person gives his word he should do all he can to keep it. The United States gave its word to an estimated 420,000 (in Houston alone) who have complied with regulations and are playing by the rules. At the very least, the federal government must grant these individuals temporary resident status while it works to decrease the back-log. We must ensure that these individuals are given the legal status that they have earned so that they may be properly recognized for their productive membership in our society.

Of course, I remind you all that this is still a federal issue that must be addressed by the United State Congress, and not the Texas House. As my campaign for Texas House continues, I will speak about proposed legislation in which the Texas Legislature has jurisdiction, and about how I intend to fight for District 127 families. You can learn more by visiting

Your Democratic Candidate for Texas House Dist. 127,
Joe A. Montemayor

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