Two Texas public officials put the ‘fight’ in the Texas Tribune Festival’s “Fight Over Immigration Reform” panel Saturday morning. Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and Jose Aliseda, a former Republican state representative and current Bee County district attorney, engaged in a lively exchange over immigration policy. The pair sat on a four-person panel that also included Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna (D-Houston) and Brad Bailey, a Nassau Bay city councilman and CEO of the conservative non-profit, The Texas Immigration Solution.
Aliseda called the immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate passed in June a “monstrosity, almost as bad as Obamacare.” The bill would increase border security and establish a process by which illegal immigrants could seek legal status. Aliseda harshly criticized this latter provision and called for the government to increase border patrol spending and to more strictly police employers, in order to prevent them from hiring undocumented immigrants.
Anchia disagreed, calling Aliseda’s claim that the United States could stop almost all illegal immigration through heightened border patrol, “the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard.” Instead, Anchia said he supports a comprehensive immigration plan that would include a guest worker program and a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, stating, “We’ll never have border security without comprehensive immigration reform.”
Bailey agreed that certain reforms, especially a guest worker program, might alleviate border security issues. He argued that border enforcement officials want a guest worker program that would lower the number of undocumented immigrants who come to America seeking work and allow officials to focus their resources on stopping violent criminals, such as drug cartels.
Aliseda, however, was unconvinced, and went further, describing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Boston bombing as “a failure of our immigration system.” Anchia quickly clarified that the terrorists involved in both attacks were in the United States legally.
After the panel, Aaron Pena, a former Republican state representative, joked good-naturedly about Aliseda. “Isn’t he a fire-breather?” Pena said. “I’m sure you all will tweet that I’m talking about him behind his back.”