Following the release of his new immigration plan earlier this week, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) held an event yesterday in Dallas to lay out his policy proposal as he seeks to regain momentum in the Democratic presidential primary.
Yesterday at Casa Komali, a restaurant owned by a legal immigrant from Mexico, O’Rourke held a roundtable immigration discussion with immigration attorneys, DACA recipients, and other immigration rights activists.
Emanuel Salinas, 43, is the restaurant owner, who purchased the restaurant in 2016 along with his significant other, John Broady.
Salinas said he was happy to host the event and was excited that Beto is focusing on immigration.
“We are residents, we can become citizens, we can contribute to the economy as a whole. And he said on day one [of his presidency] he is going to stop the separation of families.”
Dallas attorney Eric Puente was also in attendance.
When asked what his biggest critique was for the current administration’s immigration policies, Puente said it was the cap on the worker visas for those wishing to come to the United States, and praised O’Rourke’s plan to increase them.
While O’Rourke’s plan does indeed call for Congress to increase the annual visa caps, the proposal does not specify by how much.
For the 2019 fiscal year, U.S Citizenship & Immigration Services met it’s congressionally mandated 65,000 H1-B visa cap in April.
The H-1B visa is used to employ foreign workers in occupations that require specialized knowledge.
When asked about his favorite part of Beto’s immigration plan, Puente said, “Definitely closing down detention centers for children. No child should be in a cage in the United States.”
The plan states that an O’Rourke presidency will include an executive order to require detention only for immigrants with criminal backgrounds, while eliminating funds to private for-profit prison operators.
In the plan and during the round table, O’Rourke blamed the Trump administration for sowing, “chaos and needless confusion” at the border and, “manufacturing crises in our communities.”
The plan does not mention what would happen to the unaccompanied alien children that Customs & Border Protection (CBP) apprehends each year if only criminals will be placed in detention centers.
This fiscal year alone, CBP reports almost 45,000 unaccompanied minors. The fiscal year does not officially end until the last day of September.
And a recent survey of Guatemalans conducted by the Association for Research and Social Studies and Barometro de las Americas found that 39.2 percent of Guatemalans would like to migrate, and 85 percent of this group would like to migrate to the United States.
Given this information, alongside CBP reporting two consecutive months of over 100,000 apprehensions, The Texan asked O’Rourke for his response, and how he would respond to those like President Trump who call this situation a crisis?
“We can decide that we will meet this challenge after those who are fleeing Guatemala have traveled two-thousand miles, either by following our asylum laws or by building a two-thousand-mile, $30 billion wall,” said O’Rourke.
The plan calls for the creation of a new court system independent from the Department of Justice, and a complete halt to any and all physical barrier constructions on the southern border. In addition, his new immigration plan funds a right to counsel for all of those seeking asylum in the United States.
On the issue of Central Americans seeking to cross the U.S. border, O’Rourke continued, “We can go to the root of the challenge in Guatemala and invest in violence reduction in those communities, employ our farmers here in the United States who can assist those farmers in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador…In other words, help families address problems in their home communities.”
The O’Rourke plan calls for a doubling of taxpayer-funded foreign aid in the northern triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) and also taking greater diplomatic leadership with other countries of the Americas to address these problems at their origin.
O’Rourke also calls for an increase in cooperation with the United Nations, by supporting their refugee agency (UNHCR) to develop refugee protection systems in Mexico and the surrounding region.
The UNHCR was recently in the news for mismanaging donor funds in Uganda in 2016-2017. United Nation’s auditors inspected a sector of the camp that officials had reported housed 26,000 refugees.
The UN team found only 7,000 people.
In June of last year, the U.S. withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council for staying silent regarding violent oppression in Venezuela, a member state, and welcoming a new member state with a history of oppression, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A “Happy Hour for Beto” is scheduled for today at 6:00 PM at Katy Trail Ice House Outpost in Plano.
O’Rourke will be joined by his wife Amy at an office-opening party in Cedar Rapids, IA on June 8.