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El Paso Times - U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke Talks Terrorism, Border Security

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By Daniel Borunda

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke spoke about his first 100 days in office during a press conference Monday at his Downtown office.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke said that the terrorist bombings in Boston should not derail plans for immigration reform.

O'Rourke, D-El Paso, spoke about immigration reform and other issues during a news briefing Monday marking his first 100 days in Congress. The briefing was in the first-year congressman's office in the Mills Building in Downtown El Paso.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings allegedly committed by two ethnic Chechen brothers who legally immigrated to the United States, some senators have suggested that national security must be part of any immigration legislation. One of the brothers is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

"I can understand where they are coming from but I think it's a bad idea," O'Rourke said. "We have momentum. Now is not the time to stop."

O'Rourke said he is optimistic that Congress will come up with a plan to reform immigration laws that would offer a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

"The terrorist activity we see in the United States is not originating in the southern border with Mexico," O'Rourke said. "Really, the southern border is as secure as it's ever been."

O'Rourke is a member of the House committees on Homeland Security and Veterans' Affairs.

Some members of Congress have said that tougher border security should be a stipulation for passing immigration reform.

Passing legislation that provides a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants already in this country would allow authorities to focus on those "who want to do harm, who are a threat," O'Rourke said. "Comprehensive immigration reform makes this country safer."

In other matters, O'Rourke said he will continue working to improve services for military veterans, reduce the backlog of veterans benefit claims and lower wait times at U.S.-Mexico border crossings.

In his first 100 days in Congress, O'Rourke said he was proud to help pass two bills that directly impact El Paso. The Cross Border Trade Enhancement Act allows cities to help pay for staffing to reduce waits at the border. The Military Tuition Assistance Program saved tuition assistance programs for the military for the rest of the year that had been threatened by sequestration budget cuts.

O'Rourke's office receives about 250 emails and letters a week from residents. O'Rourke said that it is important that he hear from constituents and that he will continue having the regular community meetings that began during his first days in Congress. The next community meeting will be at 9 a.m. May 4 at Ysleta High School.

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