Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sixth-generation civic leader scolds Texas politicians for harsh stance on immigration

A lone, loud voice reminded a group of public officials in Texas of their roots as they contemplated the arrival of refugee children from Central America in the state.

Conservative Kaufman County Tea Party politicians had successfully lobbied the Kaufman County Commissioners Court recently to pass a resolution opposing the housing of any refugee children from Central America. But that didn't sit well with longtime Kaufman County civic leader Carolyn Long who roundly criticized the court for its action during its third and final deliberation on the matter.

Long, a sixth-generation Kaufman resident,  said she came forward to speak out against the resolution when it appeared on the consent agenda for ratification because she had just learned of it. The court passed the resolution the previous week under the heading of a "public safety" concern that failed to mention immigration.

"I think we are a welcoming county, and we always have been," Long said. "I don't want our county to get a reputation for being extremists."

The court placed the item on the consent agenda for final ratification after Assistant District Attorney John Long advised the court he had concerns about compliance with open records laws.

Long asked the court to table the resolution, and she said that she disagreed with Kaufman County Tea Party Chairman Ray Myers, Texas Sen.-elect Bob Hall and Texas Rep.-elect Stuart Spitzer who testified during two previous court meetings that the mass immigration of children entering the United States across the Mexico border posed a great economic and health threat.

Long branded the language used by the Tea Party officials as "harsh." She reminded the commissioners and Judge Bruce Wood that they all came from immigrant heritage as well.

"I think we ought to have a little compassion about this and cool it down a little bit," said Long, who is well known for her work with the Kaufman Heritage Society, Help Keep Kaufman Beautiful and other civic organizations.

Myers defended his claims about the potential threat of immigrants bringing diseases, crime and economic burdens to U.S. taxpayers as accurate and legitimate. He and the politicians claimed most of the immigrants are young adults, not children.

The Tea Party organizer said several other counties have passed similar resolutions, and the Kaufman County document is based on one drafted in Galveston County he  brought to the court's attention.

In contrast, neighboring Dallas County planned to house 2,000 refugee children, but public officials abruptly cancelled their plans after wide spread protests.

The Kaufman County officials ignored Long's protest and request to table the resolution, passing it unanimously.

Afterwards, Judge Wood said Long was the first person to speak out publically against the resolution. Others have privately expressed concerns about the children to him, but they have supported the county's stance, he said.

"They understand it is a tough problem," Wood said.

Long is pictured speaking at another event.

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