Courtesy of Bob Daemmrich
Thousands of San Antonio residents tuned in to view the anticipated immigration reform debate between San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Lieutenant Governor hopeful, State Senator Dan Patrick on April 15. Univision headquarters, the location where the debate was held, was filled to capacity.
The event was spurred by a Twitter exchange between Castro and Patrick concerning Patrick’s stance on immigration reform. Castro blasted Patrick as “the most anti-immigrant Republican running for statewide office,” due, in part, to Patrick’s claim at a political forum for statewide candidates on Jan. 19 that undocumented immigrants are violent criminals. Patrick, undisturbed by the accusations, accepted the Mayor’s invitation to a future debate on the issue, with the tweet “Ready to debate the immigration invasion Mayor.”
“I hope that coming into the debate tonight, both of the participants will be able to share their points of view about constructive ways to fix the fractured immigration system without a lot of politics that often times cloud the dialogue for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Diego Mancha, an immigration reform activist and president of UTSA’s San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement.
While the debate kicked off promptly at 6 p.m., viewers online were able to participate in discussion via the Twitter hashtags #CaraACara (face-to-face) and #CastroPatrick.”
In his opening statement, Patrick stated that he fosters compassion for immigrants and asked Castro to steer away from politics in the hopes of having an honest debate on important public policy. He concluded by urging lawmakers to pass “real, legal” immigration reform. Castro began by welcoming Dan Patrick to San Antonio and thanked the Univision staff and the Texas Tribune for hosting the debate.
Castro then took on a more serious tone. The mayor discussed how San Antonio’s prosperity is tied to its immigration diversity, which he also believes is true nationally. He then touched on fixing the broken immigration system and passing federal bipartisan immigration reform. Mayor Castro concluded his opening statement by urging Patrick to talk with US House Speaker John Boehner to bring the current bipartisan immigration reform legislature to vote on the House floor.The debate dealt with range of issues concerning undocumented immigrants, immigration rights activists and immigration reform legislation.
On the topic of undocumented immigrants, Castro spoke against Patrick’s “anti-immigrant” rhetoric, He accused Patrick of making claims that undocumented immigrants bring “third-world diseases” to the United States and that Texas is seeing “an illegal invasion from Mexico.” The mayor also accused Patrick of using undocumented immigrants as scapegoats in his campaign ads and authoring Arizona-style “show me your papers” legislation in the Texas senate, which the Mayor claimed would have “devastating effects to the Texas economy.”
In response, Patrick countered Castro’s statements about “third-world diseases,” clarifying that it was said eight years ago as a result of a 2007 Centers for Disease Control article, which reported that tuberculosis cases were up in the United States and Texas. He also cited a statistic from the World Health Organization that claimed that cases of leprosy were up in Mexico and the United States. The state senator then chastised the mayor for “making a political issue” out of his past statement.
Patrick then discussed his concerns about the threat of terrorists crossing the border, and the border patrol apprehending undocumented immigrants from Nepal and China. He claimed that 140,000 criminals apprehended by the border patrol were “identified as hardened criminals here illegally.”
Castro responded by saying that Patrick’s statistic was based on both documented and undocumented immigrants, rather than undocumented immigrants alone.
On the topic of immigration reform and immigration reform legislation, Patrick expressed his uneasiness about in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, following Castro’s assertion that the senator supports the repeal of the bipartisan Texas DREAM Act.
“We have limited resources, mayor, in this state.” Patrick began. “It is not fair, and I have empathy for (the dreamers) and I appreciate the fact that they didn’t come here on their own… But if it comes down to if there’s only one seat left at the University of Texas… and the difference is between that student and a student… who is actually a citizen of our state… I will stand up for the citizen of Texas.”
Patrick then pointed out that the Higher Texas Coordinating Board distributes 2,166 grants to undocumented students annually, which totals $7.8 million.
Patrick then discussed the pathway to citizenship outlined by the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013. He claimed it was unjust because it did a disservice to the people who had “waited in line to come [to the U.S] legally,” and many Mexican-Americans who have served in the military.
In addition, he discussed his belief that undocumented immigrants should not have access to public health care options or driver’s licenses because that would serve as a magnet for other undocumented immigrants.
In response, Castro highlighted Patrick’s efforts on immigration reform and immigration reform legislation. He stated that Patrick sponsored a bill that mimicked Arizona’s SB 1070 program and emphasized that both Republicans and Democrats voted against it because they realized it was not best for Texas.
The Mayor also brought up the fact that the Senate’s current immigration reform legislation includes provisions to secure the border before any undocumented immigrant is allowed to get on the path to permanent residency or citizenship. He further stated that 45 percent of undocumented immigrants did not cross the border but overstayed their visas. He accused Patrick of only focusing on the border as a means of “demagoguing” more votes.
The moderator, Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith, then asked Patrick why he believed there should be an increase in resources towards border security when, according to the Pew Research Center, there has been a 50 percent increase in deportation under the Obama administration, a doubling of border patrol agents along the border, a 15 percent decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States and a zero net migration between Mexico and the United States.
Patrick conceded that if he had the power to, he would not deport the current 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, and he wasn’t planning on proposing SB 107-like legislation in Congress in the future.
Patrick then proclaimed that he is fundamentally different from the mayor because he wants pregnant, undocumented immigrants who come to the United States, to “have that Hispanic child,” whom he had earlier described as an “anchor” and “Medicaid” baby. He also chastised the mayor for caring about the dreamers, but not the fetus.
Castro labeled his assertions a “distraction from the issue,” stating that he is pro-choice, and believes all people should “be able to get basic care” as a means of arguing that he could be both pro-choice and pro-life. He also stated “there are some merits to (drivers licenses)” for undocumented immigrants since “you want to know who’s on the road.”
Patrick then reaffirmed his earlier message that the Republican party stands for life, family, safety and education. He also disclosed that he raised close to $16 million for disabled, minority children living in Texas inner cities. Finally, he restated that he is not anti-immigrant and believes people should “come to America with dignity” and that ultimately he wants Washington to act and pass robust immigration.
Castro congratulated him on his work but said that it does not change the fact that he said undocumented immigrants “bring diseases like leprosy” to the U.S and has warned about an “illegal invasion from Mexico.”
In his concluding statements, Castro stated that he hoped that immigration reform was not dead and that “Republicans and Democrats can do something that local governments have to do every single day, that is to work across party lines, to throw away the labels and to pull up (their) sleeves and get things done.”
Patrick concluded by telling Castro to “call the Democrats” and drop citizenship from the bill so that it would pass.