Starting in the Harris County Hospital District, the staff members for eight Houston area U.S. representatives went on to visit the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
At each location, they listened to speakers tell them why passing comprehensive immigration reform is beneficial to their respective agency or organization.
At the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Adrian Garcia shared why he believes achieving reform is important for law enforcement.
“We have just too many people that I think do not report crime for the sake that they worry about how law enforcement may consider their respective status.”
He also said it’s important to know who is in the country. As an example of a working system, Garcia talked about his own parents who came to the United States during the “bracero” guest worker program in the 1940s and ‘50s. Garcia says he was the first member of his family who was born in the U.S.
“And hopefully, my journey here is an indication of the good that can be happening from a good system.”
Center: Sheriff Adrian Garcia (speaking); Left: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
At Catholic Charities, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said the archdiocese is growing and now has more than 1.3 million Catholics.
But he says doesn’t really know how many Catholics there are because many undocumented immigrants are afraid to register for anything. He says that needs to change.
“And you could say that’s an argument from pure sympathy. No, this is an argument in terms of some religious liberty and human rights of people that even if they’re undocumented, they have certain human rights.”
DiNardo says the system is broken and there needs to be a way to legalize the many undocumented immigrants and take them out of the shadows.
From left to right: Cynthia Colbert, President/CEO of Catholic Charities; Randy Czarlinski, regional director of ACJ Houston; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
At the Harris County Hospital District, the argument for immigration reform was that emergency care costs taxpayers much more than if pre-care was possible for everyone who lives here. Emergency care is the only way for many unauthorized immigrants to receive health care.
Randy Czarlinsky is the director of the American Jewish Committee Houston, which organized the bus tour. He says the tour covered the three different areas for a reason.
“These three areas — social services, law enforcement and medical — are a heavy economic drain on our community without dealing with immigration reform. The cost saving is tremendous for the Hospital District, for the Sheriff’s Office as well as for social services in our community.”
The Congressional staff members would not comment on the effect the tour had on their offices’ view on immigration reform.