ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION -- (House of Representatives - March 12, 2007)
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Mr. CARTER. I thank the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King) for yielding to me. And I appreciate him joining me in the previous hour in our discussion of Walter Reed and the health care for our soldiers and our veterans and how important that issue is.
But I guess, at least in the State of Texas, if what I hear in my town hall meetings is anything to be compared, I think the issue of what is happening on our borders and what we are going to do to resolve the issue of immigration is a topic that has never failed to come up, now, in the past 3 years at literally, every occasion at which I have held a town hall meeting; and I generally hold between 17 and 25 a year with the addition of the new tool of the telephone town hall. I held one of those less than 3 weeks ago for an hour and a half.
And once again, the people of Texas are concerned about the issue of the illegal aliens that have invaded our country. And they are concerned about who is coming, and what are they going to do, and what are we going to do to resolve this problem?
I have a Hispanic Council. The gentleman from Iowa knows that Texas is a State that you would put down as a Hispanic State. In fact, I believe we have now, over 50 percent of the people in Texas are Hispanic. The difference between Texas and some other parts of the world is we have lived with Hispanic neighbors all of our history. I mean, our culture is a kind of a combination of West and Mexican culture. It is the Southwest culture. It has a lot of the influence of Mexico in the Southwest culture. If you don't believe that, come on down to Austin; let me feed you the best Mexican food on Earth.
This is what is going on in Texas. We have lived with our neighbors like this all of our lives. When this issue cropped up I decided I wanted to form a Hispanic Council in my district. And we talk about issues, of course, immigration, the border, these are issues that are primary we discuss. But we made ourselves a promise that we were going to look at the world, all the world of litigation, legislation, and international relations, not just the immigration issue. But we always discuss the immigration issue. And at least my council, which has a membership of folks that are, some of them first generation American citizens, most of them second or third or fourth generation American citizens. All of Hispanic descent, most of whom are from Mexico, although there are some from other places. And we have a let your hair down, no holds barred discussion. And overall, my Hispanic community, recognizes there is a problem and realizes we have to come up with a solution, and they are supportive of a solution that is within the law.
And I think that is important because, quite frankly, the reason we have a crisis, I would tell my colleague from Iowa, is because we haven't been enforcing the laws we have got and we haven't been enforcing them since 1986 when we cranked out the amnesty program under Ronald Reagan. The key to the Reagan amnesty program being a success was enforce the law. And administrations, Republican and Democrat, have not done it. I mean, those are the facts.
You know, one thing about history, it is history. You can try to write it a different way, but the reality of history is there is only one history and that is the truth of what happened.
And what happened was we didn't enforce the laws. And as a result, we went from a trickle across our southern border and our northern border to a six-lane highway bumper to bumper invasion. And that is what we have been facing now in the last 4 or 5 years.
I would say, I have met with the White House on numerous occasions and been a very big critic of making sure that we got border enforcement. I will say, we are doing better at the border. We are not there yet, but w
are doing substantially better. The numbers are down. The catch and release program and the ending of the catch and release program, although not 100 percent, but it is better than it was when it was 100 percent catch and release. We are detaining people. And there are those who want to stop us and there are those who call us inhumane. And, in fact, in my district, one of the real things that we desperately needed was a place to care for families that cross the border. And we had no facility that was family friendly. They built a family friendly, or remodeled a correctional institute to make a family friendly center to hold illegals with children, people who come in this country illegally with children. And it is in my district. It is 22 miles from my home in Taylor, Texas. That thing has come under fire from our neighbors to the south who are sort of San Francisco-like, we would call them, in their views and they have been picketing this facility and claiming it is inhumane. I was there when they started remodeling this facility. I was there two-thirds of the way through the remodel, and so I went back the last month, the last week we were there during the President's Week, and I toured that facility.
I have the expertise of having built two juvenile detention centers as a judge. I was the chairman of the Juvenile Board from its inception in Williamson County until I retired, so until I retired I was the only chairman the Juvenile Board ever had in Williamson County, now a county of about 300,000 people. And so I was in charge of the board that built our first William S. Lott Detention Center, back when we were a lot smaller county. We are probably the second fastest growing county in the Nation every year of the last 20 years. And so now we have built a much larger, 4 or 500-bed facility, the second one, the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Center.
So when I went into this controversial holding situation that we have got there in Taylor, I was looking for the kind of thing that we put our juvenile offenders into. And, you know, juvenile offenders are not, under the law, criminal offenders. It is a very special category of the world. And so I looked at the classrooms, which, quite frankly, were better than the classrooms that my son and my daughter-in-law teach in at Round Rock High School, and I am pretty proud of the classroom that they teach in at Round Rock High School. They were very well managed. The teachers were bilingual and very, very compassionate.
There was a glitch, bureaucratic glitch that caused some of them not to be taught long enough. But now they are meeting the Texas educational standards. They have recess, they have a playground, the rooms are decorated. They have done the best they can to make it juvenile friendly. And I figure if it is good enough for juveniles, it is certainly good enough for their parents.
But there is a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, and I am certain that our crisis is not over on that facility. But why did we have to build that facility? Because there were coyotes in Mexico who knew that if, for sure, if you were caught and you had a child in your possession, they had no place to house you, no matter where you came from. And 97 percent of the people in that Taylor facility are OTM, other than Mexicans. They knew if you had a kid they couldn't detain you. And so we had to have some way to detain. Those things are improvements. But that is the kind of, this is a very complicated situation. And you are right, it is not something that calls for a quick easy fix that suits certain people's political agenda. It needs to be analyzed and it needs to be done, I still say, as we secure the border and get the confidence of the American people that we care about what is going on, and we are getting there. We need to come up with a way to identify people so we know who has the right to work and who doesn't have the right to work in this country. Then our work program, with those who are here with no pathway to citizenship, in my opinion, and then a work program for those that want to come in legally to work in a legal system, work for a period of time and go back type of system, and finally rework our immigration and naturalization laws to where they work, they are workable. And at that point in time, if you have violated the law, and you want to go for citizenship, you reapply from the nation you come from and you get in line like everybody else with some kind of penalty for having broken our laws. That makes sense. That is not something we should throw in in a quick laundry basket full of clothes, everything mixed up, and it will all work it out. We will work it out later, because, my friend from Iowa, ask the people that are in the trenches that are dealing with this immigration problem at ICE and other places. They are overwhelmed now. If you throw the 7 to 20 million that are hiding out in this country back on their shoulders to deal with, what are they going to do if we don't think this out logically?
They are going to be more overwhelmed. And when a government system is overwhelmed, it just stops working. And that is what we are experiencing in the United States today. You can't blame these people. When they have got a pile of a thousand applications on their desk and you walk through the door with 10,000 more, they are going to say, I can't do the thousand, I sure as heck can't do the 10,000.
So I think it is really wonderful that the people in this Congress are willing to keep bringing this issue to the floor and reminding the American people that we care, because there are those of us who care very, very compassionately about this issue. We can do it and we can do it right. And when it is done right, justice will prevail. I have been in the justice business all of my life, and I have been in the justice business as a judge for almost 21 years. I believe that what we owe all people who reside in this country is justice. Justice occasionally requires responsibility for your actions, and these are the kind of things we need to think about as we address this problem.
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