The following is from the subscription-only Rio Grande Guardian, sent to me in email.
Noriega: Reject GOP's divisive platform on immigration
CORPUS CHRISTI - A Democratic lawmaker from Houston has told young Latinos to reject the "divisive approach" signaled by the Republican Party of Texas in a new three-page immigration policy paper adopted this week.
Rep. Rick Noriega was keynote speaker at a Texas LULAC Young Adults luncheon on Saturday. The event was part of Texas LULAC's state convention.
"The GOP has adopted a gratuitous document that shows no tolerance. As Texans we are better than that," Noriega told the Guardian, after his speech.
The Texas GOP's stance on immigration was formulated at the party's annual convention in San Antonio this week. The new platform calls for the abolition of House Bill 1403, otherwise known as the DREAM Act, which made Texas the first state in the nation to provide in-state tuition and financial assistance for certain immigrant children.Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 07, 2006 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack
The legislation, passed in 2001, was authored by Noriega. U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has since tried to pass similar legislation at the national level. For his endeavors on the issue, Noriega was named 2001 Legislator of the Year by Hispanic Journal.
As well as scrapping HB 1403, the new GOP platform calls for the withholding of federal funds from colleges that provide such tuition discounts.
The platform also proposes a "physical barrier" along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and the deployment of federal agents to roundup illegal immigrants so they can be deported to their country of origin.
The Texas GOP also now wants to deny automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants and repeal the requirement that hospitals give non-emergency care to the undocumented.
Noriega told LULAC Young Adults that depriving immigrants of basic public services was like "eating your seed corn." He later told the Guardian that the nation had a serious issue on its hands with immigration and border security but that it "needed to be handled in a humane and dignified way."
Noriega is a hero to many young adults in LULAC thanks in part to his success with HB 1403. Noriega had the opportunity to meet with some of the "1403 students" before the luncheon. He said he got to hear where they came from, what their hopes and dreams were, and where they were going.
"I wish you could have a few moments with these students. Absolutely powerful and inspiring," he said in his speech.
Noriega is also a major in the Texas Army National Guard. He served on active military service in Afghanistan for a year and a day and is now based at Camp Mabry in Austin, helping formulate plans for Operation Jump Start, the Department of Defense's project to deploy National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Noriega said his experiences in Afghanistan made him reaffirm his "mission statement" in life. He said he saw children being schooled in an overhang with a piece of chalkboard and families struggling with no electricity and little water.
He said he now knew his calling in life was that of public service. As a result he now counts down the time he has left to "change the world" by removing one little pebble from a jar each day. He calculates he has about 10,200 days to make a difference.
Noriega said his active duty service has also allowed him to see things differently. He said he was astonished to come back to the Capitol to see colleagues droning on and on about what constituted equity in public education.
"It sounded like Charley Brown's parents talking in those cartoons - wah, wah wah, wah wah," Noriega said. "Does equity mean 87 percent or does equity mean 93 percent. I said, well, hell I don't think either one of those means equity to me. Who in the world would ever conceive that equity means 87 percent or 93 percent?"
Noriega also told the audience how appalled he was, upon returning from Afghanistan, to learn that vigilantes had hijacked the term 'Minutemen.'
Noriega said the National Guard was synonymous with the original Minutemen, who pledged to bear arms at a minute's notice during the Revolutionary War. He said National Guard troops receive Minutemen awards.
"To come home and see that someone would bastardize and dishonor the word Minutemen was absolutely appalling to me. Unpatriotic; treasonous, in my view," Noriega said.
"If folks are so concerned about the security of this nation, I would have more respect for them if they put on the body armor and take up a post or be quiet."
Noriega said he sometimes asks himself what he served his country for. He said it was not for those who would water down school finance equity or hijack the "treasured term" of the Minutemen.
"I went and served for the hope of this country, which is the youth that is sitting here today. And I would do it again, con ganas," Noriega said.
He told LULAC Young Adults not to get too worked up about who held which office inside the civil rights group. "At end of the day we do not shoot inside the circle because our mission is outside the circle," he explained.
Noriega said that despite the "very, very, serious" issues facing the nation, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, global warming, the education of its students and providing health care for the elderly, the
vitality of the young adults participating in LULAC gave him hope for the future.
"Your journey has a long way to go, 20,000 pebbles. Get up and think to yourself how are you going to change the world today?" he advised. "If you don't, just keep your tail in bed and let somebody else use the oxygen."
The audience applauded loudly.