Harris County Commissioners Court considered a resolution calling for immigration reform on July 9, just days before the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids are expected to take place July 14 in various cities across the U.S., including Houston.
The resolution, brought to the court by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia—a first-generation American—asserts immigrants are vital to the Greater Houston area’s economy and that the implementation of solutions such as the concept of a deferred action childhood arrival policy—or DACA—would further enhance that economy.
The resolution also states that detaining those who are seeking asylum, refuge and the American dream goes against the moral fiber of Harris County; that ICE raids harm public health by destabilizing immigrant communities; and that the current detention and removal system fails to ensure the due process rights of immigrants and violates human rights.
“In this county, we speak over 200 languages every single day, we’re among the most diverse in America and that diversity equals a strong economy,” Garcia said during the meeting. “It equals tourism, it equals economic power and economic diversity, and it also equals a new generation of leaders, scientists, educators and a workforce that every economy needs. So this resolution is simply to respect and reflect who Harris County is.”
The resolution calls on national leaders to adopt legislation that comprehensively reforms immigration policy, to end inhumane conditions in detention facilities, to keep families intact and to cease enforcement operations that separate families.
The resolution also calls for Harris County to fully support the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, the immigration rights hotline: 1-83-HOU-IMMI or 1-833-468-4664, and to encourage county departments to refer residents to the hotline to report raids and to get referrals to immigration legal services.
“We see a deeply broken system,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo—an immigrant—said during the meeting. “I think it’s important and commendable of you, Commissioner [Garcia] to bring this up and that we speak out against this system. We’re looking at anything the county can do to support those in the immigration system—in this broken detention system—in Harris County.”
While Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said he favored the resolution, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said he did not want the county to get too involved with what he considered “federal issues.”
During the meeting, approximately 17 Harris County residents and community leaders spoke in support of the resolution, while several called for the abolishment of ICE altogether.
“We live under a broken system and if we choose to deny it right now, if we choose to ignore it right now, we are going to be on the wrong side of history,” said Cesar Espinosa with FIEL Houston, an immigrants’ rights organization. “I encourage you to get on the right side of history and abolish an agency that seeks to hunt our people and to put them in concentration camps.”
Likewise Brenden Krall, an eighth grade English teacher at a predominately Hispanic school in Spring Branch ISD, said many of his students have disclosed to him that they or one of their family members are undocumented.
“These conversations are often followed with the heartbreaking stories detailing the constant fear and lack of support they experience in their every day lives,” Krall said. “Students have told me that their parents are concerned when they see any type of law enforcement. They tell me how a simple traffic stop can lead their family member into the deportation pipeline with no one to help them.”
Jacob Monty, a Latino labor and immigration lawyer who identified as a Republican, also stated his support for what he considered a “common sense resolution.”
“The common sense resolution doesn’t call for the abolition of ICE; it calls for congress to act together in a bipartisan way for immigration reform,” Monty said. “It should not be controversial. The resolution that Commissioner Garcia read is very modest, it does not call for the abolition of ICE, it would make us safer and it would continue to make Houston the great economic engine that that is driving Texas and the rest of the nation.”
The resolution is expected to return to Harris County Commissioners Court for action at its next meeting, July 30.
“I think it’s important for us to make it right and hopefully other counties across Texas and counties across America will copy our resolution and maybe that’s what it’s going to take for our national leaders to finally get this done,” Garcia said. “We’re not saying ‘abolish any agency’ but what we are saying is that … we need our national leaders to get to the table to fix a system that is broken, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”