Greater Houston Partnership Pushes For Renewed Immigration Reform Dialogue

Members of the Greater Houston Partnership have formed "Americans for Immigration Reform," which plans a $12 million media campaign targeted at reviving the stalled debate. Immigration attorney Charles Foster says it's to the credit of the GHP leadership that they took up the issue.

"The business community has been — for a variety of reasons — reluctant to speak out on this topic. Some because they simply don't want to bring, you know, be, to bring attention to themselves. For example, if you're, if you have a large farming operation, you don't want to be necessarily the spokesman for fear that the Immigration Service might actually target you."

One of the Partnership panel members, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, says the U.S. should establish some kind of legal avenue for people to enter the country.

"What happens in some of the areas of our parish where there are many, many immigrants — I think a number of them who are illegal — is they're afraid, for instance, to register in a parish. People live in fear. I do not think, in the United States of America, that someone should live in fear because of the status, because of his status."

Amegy Bank CEO Paul Murphy says the current structure allows for exploitation of guest workers.

"If we had a guest worker program, workers are identified, they know who they are. The opportunity for them to have helath benefits and 401(k)s — the opportunity goes, it just improves everything so significantly. But the underground economy — that's not the case. So let's bring all this above ground. Let's get it out in the open. Let's know who people are and where they are, and they'll be treated so much more fairly."
But as things stand now, there's no mechanism for an undocumented worker to stay in the country, practically speaking, according to Charles Foster.

"We have an annual quota of 5,000. We have millions of people in the system. We have enacted laws that say even if you qualify, it says the mere fact that you have been here illegally, you've got to go home and wait ten years after you qualify. Well, you couldn't qualify legally, anyway. But if you did, we're going to add another ten-year penalty."

Foster says the media effort to revive immigration discussion is needed because talk radio has been clouding the issue by being one-sided.

"Talk radio — they don't want real discussions. They simply want red meat issues, and demagogue this issue. And they will motivate lots of people to — angry people — to write their Congressmen, and those Congressmen and Senators — what we're trying to do is to bring in to, through free media, paid media — a more balanced view."

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.
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