State Representative David Simpson, R-Longview, has returned from a weeklong tour of the Rio Grande Valley, investigating the state of the border and discussing measures in response to the recent influx of illegal immigrants fleeing violence in Central America.
“Three words came to mind: beautiful … dysfunctional … and overwhelmed,” Rep. Simpson said. His district covers all of Gregg and Harrison Counties, including Longview.
The trip began June 30, when his party left Austin, and ended on July 6. The trip covered about 2,500 miles according to the representative’s office, about 800 of which were along the border, and included stops at Brownsville, South Padre, McAllen, and Santa Elena Canyon, among others.
“It was a working vacation,” Simpson said. “My family came with me, and my parents, too. There were two office briefings, set up by my friend Rep. Lucio, and with the Texas D.P.S. (Department of Public Safety).”
Rep. Simpson also met with U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, to discuss the federal government’s role in the immigration issue.
“The border patrol also gave me a tour by boat and by helicopter,” Simpson said. “We also go to see detention centers at Weslaco, McAllen and Del Rio.”
The main purpose of the tour was to ascertain the size and nature of the problem facing Texas’ border with Mexico.
“First of all, it was beautiful,” Simpson continued. “I was encouraged to see development. I didn’t expect it to be so developed, but there were very nice stores, universities and everything.
“It was clear, though, that the system is dysfunctional. It’s just overwhelmed. They told me that about 40 percent of border patrol agents are being used to process families, unaccompanied minors, and adults … I was also told that something like 25 percent of immigrants are from Mexico daily, and many are from Central America, fleeing from violence, murder and assault down there. It’s a true humanitarian crisis.”
Another large part of the problem, he feels, is a failure of the legal immigration system to accommodate refugees.
“People often forget that we had similar circumstances in 2005,” he said. “The system is dysfunctional. It releases people on their own recognizance, trusting them to report back to immigration court, but most people don’t understand what’s going on. They think they’ve been released and given a pass to enter the United States, and they tell their friends before they leave the area. The border patrol has no trouble apprehending them – they often wave at the first patrol they see. This is not a military problem. This isn’t an invasion.
“We need to increase the number of immigration judges immediately at the border. I am pro-legal immigration. We should allow people seeking asylum. We’ve always been a country like that. It’s like the poem on the Statue of Liberty. However, we need to stop giving out freebies. We shouldn’t welcome people to dependence, but to independence.”
In this light, Simpson proposed a state solution based on reforming legal immigration and stopping illegal immigration.
“We do have a problem with drugs and warlords taking advantage of the situation,” he warned. “We have to require a fulfillment of promises to appear before immigration courts to enter schools. We need to determine the status of these immigrants and not put them in this limbo. They can get an education but not get a driver’s license. That’s not right. We do need to secure the border against crime and terror, in order to defend life, liberty and property. I welcome people to come. We need workers. We do need to limit our health care to emergencies and critical care to immigrants as well as citizens. What’s going on in emergency rooms is not right. We need to stop the freebies, and open the legal pipeline while continuing to secure the border.”
Simpson is inviting the public to attend his report on the tour, followed by a town hall meeting to discuss immigration issues, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today. The event will be held in the Bridge Building at Mobberly Baptist Church, located at 625 E. Loop 281 in Longview.