Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) criticized on Tuesday a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event that had been scheduled to take place the following day at the University of Texas.
“It’s sad when it comes from any quarter,” he told Fusion’s Alicia Menendez, adding that he was especially disheartened to hear a young Latino was behind the now-cancelled event.
Lorenzo Garcia organized the day — which would have involved “catching” people wearing “illegal immigrant” pins and handing them in for a small cash reward — to supposedly “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration,” according to the group’s now-defunct Facebook page.
The issue of immigration is particularly divisive in Texas — home to both a heavily Latino population and a fiercely conservative Republican party - and the event is a sign, Castro said, that Texas has “got a lot of work to do in reconciling these divisions in our state as we go forward.”
People express anxiety that undocumented immigrants steal jobs from American citizens, but the reality, Castro pointed out, is that they hold jobs Americans “aren’t competing for.”
“We rely on undocumented immigrants in a big way to power our industries,” he said, noting that not many American citizens are willing to sign up to pick crops in sweltering Texas sun.
Conservative Republicans in the state, dominated by Tea Partiers who have pledged to repeal the Texas Dream Act, have been vocal opponents of comprehensive immigration reform and panned a proposed pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers.
But, Castro said, they’re “not the kind of people Texans are.”
"Conservatives in [Texas] are ratcheting up their divisiveness…definitely taking us a step backward," he added.
To Republicans, Castro said he would say, “If you believe you have the ability” to pass piecemeal immigration bills instead of a single comprehensive package, “go ahead and do it.”
It would show, he added, that they “have the will to listen to the American people.”
While a vote on immigration reform anytime soon seems unlikely, Castro is confident there will “eventually” be a vote.
He said advocates for immigration reform need to “keep pressure” on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
It’s “not a political issue,” he said, “that’s…going to wash out.”
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.