Days after a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, said he was quitting the group because of its embrace of the Senate immigration bill, the CHC said it does not support the border security part of the measure.
Without mentioning Vela, the caucus chairman, U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, also a Texas Democrat, released a statement in the Texas Tribune that said: “We are pleased with the progress the Senate has made on this important issue; we have not endorsed the Corker-Hoeven, the border surge amendment passed in The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”
Both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate said they had to accept some aspects they have misgivings about or an immigration reform bill never would succeed.
But others following the immigration issue have assailed the political leaders – liberals are targeting Democrats for agreeing to some of the more hard-line border provisions, and conservatives are attacking Republicans who accepted the part dealing with legalizing undocumented immigrants.
The Senate bipartisan bill, which passed, moving the reform issue to the House of Representatives, tightens border security, expands the guest worker visa program, calls for employers to use a federal database to verify their eligibility of workers to be employed in the United States, and provides a path to legal status for many of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The Corker-Hoeven amendment, named after the two Republican senators who were the chief sponsors, seeks 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border and the hiring of 20,000 more Border Patrol agents. The amendment makes the border reinforcement a condition of allowing undocumented immigrants to legalize their status.
On Tuesday, Rep. Vela, wrote an essay that appeared in the Houston Chronicle in which he said that could not continue in the caucus because of his opposition to the provisions in the bill that call for militarizing the border and enhancing the fencing.
“I grew up on the border, and until recently, border towns in Mexico and the United States shared a common economic and cultural vitality,” Vela wrote. “Now we have border fences, and they don’t work. They harm the environment, inconvenience everyone and promote fear between neighbors. The Senate bill perpetuates an environment of fear and separation. I will not compromise my commitment to my border constituents for reasons of expedience.”