More than 700 Texans come to the Austin Convention


Diverse sectors of Texas represented in state-wide convention in Austin

Austin, TX – More than 700 community members, advocates, business leaders, people of faith, and elected officials gathered today (February 20, 1-5 p.m.) at the Texas Convention for Immigrant Integration at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin to support comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. Participants sought to send a clear message to President Obama and to Texas Senators and Representatives that families, businesses, and communities across Texas cannot wait any longer for the federal government to fix the broken immigration system. Delaying action is bad for the nation and it’s bad for Texas.

Participants agreed to continue their efforts past the convention with a campaign to gather 50,000 signatures on a letter to President Obama urging him to take up immigration reform this year. Today, in a convention center decorated with photographs of loved ones that audience members had pinned on walls, speakers from all backgrounds shared their views that immigration reform is good for the economy, for security, and for families.

Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice-President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU,) said, “We need an immigration system that works for America’s workers. For too long, our nation’s immigration system has fueled discrimination and exploitation of workers. It has driven down wages and working conditions. And it has failed to live up to our nation’s values. We now have an opportunity to change course. That is why Change to Win and the AFL-CIO have come together to create a unified labor framework for immigration reform that addresses the needs of our nation’s workers, families and communities. This framework is about moving America forward. We are a nation that respects hard work, family and the pursuit of the American Dream. Our immigration system must hold true to these principles.”

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said he is one of many law enforcement officials who are opposed to the practice of deputizing local police officers to serve as immigration agents and hope immigration reform puts an end to it. “Having local law enforcement enforcing immigration law tears down the trust and respect we need to keep the community safe. As for immigration reform, I’d like to see it come to a resolution,” he said.

Pastor Lynn Godsey, President of the Hispanic Evangelical Alliance of Dallas-Fort Worth, said, “Not only does the Constitution of the United States uphold the protection of an individual’s civil liberties and human rights, but God has much to say about the treatment of the sojourner in the Bible.  As people of faith, we are called to ground our conduct and treatment of others in what God has revealed through scripture, in and through his Son, Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament, we are instructed to ‘not mistreat the foreigner, for at one time we too were such.’  In the New Testament, Jesus took it to another level in stating that we love our neighbor and provide for his or her needs, for He said: “I was a stranger (foreigner) and you invited me in”.  As such, our views on immigration are to be grounded and reared in Biblical Revelation.  It is a call from Christ to all of us that are His followers to treat the alien, the stranger the immigrant with fairness, justice and hospitality.”

Attendees also heard the personal stories of regular people who were personally affected by bad immigration policies. Amelia Hernandez said she was taking care of her three nephews because their parents were deported.  “They don’t know the damage they cause to children, separating them from their parents. My nephews can’t fall asleep; they cry all the time; they don’t want to eat. They want to be with their parents and they feel abandoned. Because of this, I think legalization should be a priority for the president and his administration.”

College students who support the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow undocumented youth to adjust their status so they can attend college, also had their say. Among them was Zelene Pineda who came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 8 years old. Undocumented children do not qualify for many of the scholarships that other students take for granted and often struggle to pay tuition. “The situation for undocumented students on the border is even more limiting,” Pineda, who lives in El Paso, said. “You’d have to pass Border Patrol checkpoints to go to school in San Antonio, for instance, so you don’t go there. You see Mexico (from El Paso), but you can’t go there. The foreign students from Mexico have benefits like in-state-tuition. But even though you are in the country, you have to pay more. On the border, you are constantly reminded of your immigration status.”

Other notable speakers included Ali Noorani, Director, National Immigration Forum, Reform Immigration for America Campaign; Pastor Mark Gonzalez, Vice President, Governmental Affairs, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC); Sam Guzman, President/CEO, Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC); and Sate Rep. Carol Alvarado.


Adriana Cadena

RITA Coordinator

RITA (Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance)

(915) 253-2262,

Louie Gilot

Communications Director

Border Network for Human Rights

(915) 217-3621,


More information about the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA): This alliance is a multi-sector, statewide network dedicated to building support for a sensible immigration policy. Visit us at

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