Immigration debate highlights Fatal funnel forum
Sept. 1, 2009 at 4:01 a.m.
Updated Sept. 2, 2009 at 4:02 a.m.
The immigration debate took center stage at the Welder Center in Victoria on Tuesday evening as community members heard views and discussed the issue with a sheriff, a journalist and a Catholic priest.
About 250 community members turned out for the event organized by the Victoria Advocate to commemorate the ending of the 16-part Fatal Funnel Series.
The event began with a short film highlighting the reasoning behind the series followed by panelist comments.
Victoria Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor, the first to speak, explained the dual immigration duty of law enforcement as enforcers of both criminal and social justice.
"Understand that the local law enforcement, we're not in the immigration business," he said. "We're in the protection of human beings, saving lives and the protection of individuals."
O'Connor was overcome with emotion as he spoke of detaining two 14-year-old immigrant children during a traffic stop on a cold, rainy day.
"That's the humane part, but guess what, we have to do the criminal justice part as well," he said. "We don't turn our heads, we can't turn away."
The Rev. Stan DeBoe, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, outlined the church's stance on the issue that he said focuses on human dignity.
"The official policy of the Catholic Church does not condone illegal entry into the country, but changes have to be made because our laws aren't working right now," he said. "What's needed is a much larger legalization process that provides a window of opportunity for immigrants who are already here in this country to come forward."
Lastly, Macarena Hernández, University of Houston-Victoria journalism professor and former immigration reporter, spoke of her experience as a child of Mexican immigrants and the immigration issues from a global perspective.
"It's the same concerns with France and the Algerians, it's the same concerns with Germany and the Turks," she said. "I think this is a global issue and sometimes we get really caught up in that it's only happening in Texas, in Victoria, but really global migration is the result of many things."
The panelists were followed by questions from people on both sides of the immigration issue.
The event concluded with a song composed by Tim Hudson, president of the University of Houston-Victoria.
Participants were hopeful to hear solutions on the issue and happy the forum shed light on problem from a local perspective.
"I think it's a really good idea for it to start locally because we are profoundly affected by immigration where we are," said Uppinder Mehan, who attended the event. "I think we have been having a national conversation but it's become rather abstract. Here it's very concrete, very specific. It touches people's lives."