Immigration Reform in Houston

General, H-town

Zocalo Public Square and Azteca American recently held a panel to discuss immigration reform. Specifically, it was promoted as “What Would Immigration Reform Mean for Houston?” Speakers included: Angela Blanchard, Neighborhood Centers president and CEO, Tony Payan, Rice University Baker Institute political scientist, and Macarena Hernandez, journalist and University of Houston-Victoria professor of humanities. The panel was moderated by Claudia Kolker, Author of The Immigrant Advantage.

The event, held at Rice University, was well-attended and offered great panelists. Though I didn’t have previous knowledge of Payan and Hernandez, I was impressed with their knowledge of the topic at hand. Blanchard did a good job of explaining how immigration is an issue for the people her organization serves. And Kolker provided a good cultural reference on the immigrant population, from the research for her book.

The discussion ranged from the impact current national sentiment is having on the immigrant population to the myths and fallacies that often populate the criticism of that same population. There was quite a bit of discussion over the first-generation immigrants versus second- and third-generation — with educational attainment, economic success and cultural assimilation differing and improving on a generation-by-generation basis. The fact that current immigrants model all former immigrants in the adoption process was discussed. The fact that Texas, in spite of being a largely Republican state, is also a welcoming state for immigrants also was mentioned.

Unfortunately, or not (depending on your view), the event itself was largely preaching to the choir. The panel consisted of people who strongly believe that it’s imperative, and right, to reform immigration policies to give our current immigrant population a legal way to be in this country and an attainable path to citizenship… and the audience (with one or two exceptions) seemed to share that belief.

Despite all the information and facts provided at the event, by the panelists and the moderator, no one actually answered the question about how immigration reform would impact Houston as a city.

Want more information? Zocalo Public Square has provided some online resources for those who missed the event:

— Written by Sandra Fernandez

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