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Noriega on immigration

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 rest is beneath the fold. Read the whole thing, it’s worth your time.

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.

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.

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3 Comments

  1. BigMediaBlog says:

    The DREAM Act takes discounted college educations away from U.S. citizens and gives them to citizens of other countries.

    Now, who would want to take something away from U.S. citizens in order to give it to foreign citizens who are here illegally?

    Who would want to deprive U.S. citizens of discounted college educations?

    Who would want to block U.S. citizens from attending college?

    Why, the Democratic Party, that’s who.

  2. Matt says:

    Actually, its the Republican Party who is taking away college educations for middle class families. Let’s take a look: underfunded state schools. “Tuition deregulation”–allowing unelected friends of the governor set state tuition rates, leading to enormous increases. Ending the Texas Tomorrow Fund–because tuition deregulation introduced uncertainty in future tuition rates, Texas parents can no longer participate in a pre-paid tuition program which locks in current rates for future Texas students. Cuts in student aid. Attempts to eliminate guaranteed admission to state universities of the top 10% of graduating seniors in each school. Either you think restricted access to higher education is good, or you are unaware of how badly Republicans have treated it.

  3. Rick Noriega says:

    It disturbs me when folks start with the idea that someone is taking something away from someone else–to motivate by fear instead of hope. Anytime you hear that, take notice.

    This nation was founded on hope, on dreaming great dreams. On making things happen and expanding possibilities.

    HB 1403 students are value-added. They are increasing the pie, if you will. Nearly 10,000 students that have graduated from Texas schools have committed to become U.S. citizens and earned their way to go to college–how can that be anything but good for Texas?

    The students have studied everything from welding to microbiology. Top students, cum laude–the best of the best. Who knows, one may discover the cure for AIDS, be the next Einstein or DeBakey.

    I might remind you also that these students were brought here; they did not choose to come here on their own and are not responsible for the sins of their fathers. Many have no memory of anywhere but the United States.

    This state has invested in their primary education. To deprive students of higher education is to eat our “seed corn” in an age when we will be dependent on human capital for our own futures. It makes no economic sense, especially when some want to expand H-1 visas to allow professionals from other countries rather than allowing these educated students, Texans, to become our nurses, teachers and engineers.

    This really is about two visions of Texas. One is creating opportunity, of growing hopes and dreams; the other is about fear and division and having less instead of more. I choose my vision of Texas and am proud of those Texas students that are achieving their dreams.