County Judge, Veronica Escobar

  • Stop talking and reform immigration, Dewhurst says
  • By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau

  • AUSTIN -- Partisan rhetoric about undocumented immigrants must stop, and Congress needs to reform the immigration system so that Texas can prosper economically, Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday.

  • Speaking at a border technology and trade conference, Dewhurst said immigration reforms must allow workers to come to the United States legally. Bringing immigrants out of the shadows, he said, would improve security, allowing border agents to focus on potential threats.

  • "This is a debate I'm pushing Congress to put behind us," said the potential 2010 gubernatorial candidate. "We're all from someplace else. The U.S. is a melting pot."

  • Dewhurst said he favored a "liberal immigration policy" that allows needed workers to flow into the United States legally. But, he added later, he does not favor offering citizenship to those who entered the country illegally.

  • "Let's legitimize everyone and let's move on, because we have to work together," Dewhurst said.

  • The conference, attended by government officials and business leaders from Canada, Mexico and the U.S., was meant to develop strategies to increase the speed and security of cross-border movement of products, people and services.

  • Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey told the audience that the United States has allowed debate about border enforcement to dominate the discussion instead of searching for reasonable solutions. Technology, new ways of thinking and binational cooperation, he said, are the keys to increasing border security and maintaining economic stability.

  • "Without hardworking, disciplined, humble, Catholic Mexican and Central American workers, it's over," McCaffrey said.

  • Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce president Richard Dayoub said it was "comforting" to hear Dewhurst urge that immigration rhetoric cease. Until it does, he said, improvements in technology and efficiency at border ports like El Paso will be delayed.

  • "Without the commitment and willingness to move toward solutions, we're at a logjam," Dayoub said.

  • State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, who helped host the conference as chairman of the Border Legislative Conference, said strategies developed at the meeting and at subsequent meetings would be presented to the next presidential administration in 2009.

  • "It's time to focus on hope, prosperity and opportunity," Shapleigh said. "Secure and fast movement of people and products around the world are not mutually exclusive."

  • Brandi Grissom may be reached at; 512-479-6606.

  • County Judge
    Veronica Escobar