I give these candidates a lot of credit for guts.
Hispanic residents making their first run for office are on Saturday's ballot for City Council in Farmers Branch and Irving, where illegal immigration is a major issue.
Farmers Branch became a front in the anti-illegal immigration movement nearly two years ago when the City Council voted to bar landlords from renting apartments in the city to illegal immigrants. Lawsuits filed by opponents have prevented the ordinance from taking effect.
Irving made headlines when police began screening arrestees for possible referral to federal immigration officials. The city's policy has resulted in the deportation of about 2,700 people since September 2006.
The Hispanic candidates say they can see the tension when they campaign.
"It's unfortunate that it's gotten ugly -- threatening calls and things like that," said Ruben Rendon, 58, a school psychologist running in Farmers Branch. "People said, 'I'm not talking to you.' And you don't even know anything about me. You just assume."
The Hispanic candidates say immigration is not their only issue. Irving City Council candidate Nancy Guadalupe Rivera, 21, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she wants to improve park and recreational services. Irving mayoral candidate Rigo Reza, 37, said he wants to ensure that police have the equipment and training they need. Rendon wants more open government. And Claudia Villarreal, 21, a Brookhaven College student, bank teller and candidate for Farmers Branch City Council, said she wants to clean up trash in the commercial areas.
On immigration, the four disagree with their cities' tough stances.
Reza and Rivera said only serious criminals suspected of illegal immigration -- not people arrested on suspicion of minor crimes, such as traffic offenses -- should be turned over to federal authorities.
"I feel like [Irving has] been doing racial profiling, and that's not right," Rivera said.
Farmers Branch's mounting legal fees are a major issue. Rendon said the city is wasting money defending the rental ban in court. He said immigration enforcement should be left to the federal government.
"We just can't keep spending money like there's no tomorrow," said Rendon, who served on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission for nine years.