DALLAS (CBS11) – Emotions overflowed in Dallas County as commissioners debated and approved a symbolic resolution involving immigrants and refugees.
The controversial “Welcoming Communities” resolution passed 4-1 along party lines.
Most of the standing-room only crowd supported the non-binding order.
During a hearing, one by one addressed commissioners.
Rene Martinez, a Dallas resident and Hispanic activist said, “I’m here to urge you to support this welcoming communities resolution.”
Among the provisions, the resolution says the Dallas County Commissioners Court, “supports our immigrant, refugee and marginalized persons, documented and undocumented as integral members of our community.”
The resolution also says, “We strive to make Dallas County a safe and welcoming community that stands on principles of rejecting racial profiling and racially motivated brutality and hate crimes that impacts minority and under-represented communities, including Black, Brown, Asian, LGBTQ, immigrant and refugee community members.”
Another speaker, Teresa Romero of Dallas County told commissioners, “This is about communities of black and brown people, undocumented and documented alike, of LGTBQ and those who identify as Latino, Latina, Latin X.”
It further says, “Providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would be a benefit to the United States and Dallas County. Undocumented residents of Dallas County are highly employed, many in vital industries such as construction, manufacturing, and service” and that “undocumented residents of Texas paid approximately $178 million in property taxes and $1.4 billion in sales taxes in 2010, (as cited in a 2016 Texas Public Policy Foundation study).”
Another speaker who favors the resolution, Linda Abramson Evans of Dallas County said, “I’ve observed how refugees and immigrants contribute to the community. I hope that Dallas County will continue to welcome them fully.”
But the lone Republican on Commissioners Court, Mike Cantrell, rejected the resolution.
“This is a resolution that supports open borders,” said Cantrell. “The public understands that this resolution is making Dallas Co. a sanctuary county. This resolution points a bulls-eye on Dallas County and has the possibility of far-reaching impacts on the county and its cities, all to the detriment of taxpayers.”
Cantrell had a heated exchange with Commissioners Court Judge Clay Jenkins over whether Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman would be able to address commissioners.
Cantrell accused Jenkins of pushing Kleinman down the list and past a 30 minute limit for the hearing.
Ultimately, all commissioners voted to extend the hearing, but Cantrell told Jenkins, “I think it was very cowardice of you for what you did. I think that was very poor.”
Jenkins replied, “I think opinions are like belly buttons and you’re entitled to yours.”
Councilman Kleinman expressed concern about another provision, which “calls on local law enforcement agencies to end nonessential collaborations with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
He referred to the Trump Administration and Governor Greg Abbott’s threats to take away millions of dollars in federal and state funds from sanctuary cities.
As Kleinman spoke, some in the chamber turned their backs on him.
Kleinman said, “What we don’t want to happen is to see our precious funds reduced or cut when we are using those funds to serve the very people who we are trying to protect.”
He said the city of Dallas receives $30 million in community block grants from the federal government a year which help the homeless and other community needs.
But Judge Jenkins assured Kleinman the provision is in there so police don’t ask crime victims their immigration status.
He says the Dallas County Jail continues to works with ICE to detain inmates who may be here illegally.
Judge Jenkins told Councilman Kleinman, “We’re not trying to poke the bear. If the bear eventually comes over here, then I guess we’ll have to fight the bear, but right now, we’re trying to work with the bear.”
Pastor Freddie Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church told commissioners, passing the measure “will lift up Dallas as an example of what this nation should be, as we experience this Trumpish nightmare.”
Commissioner Elba Garcia, who introduced the resolution, told the court that she came to the U.S. from Mexico years ago with a dream. ”
A dream to be a dentist. I didn’t speak English. I had to go to school. English 101 at El Centro College. It was not easy. But I stand here today because people believed in me,” said Garcia.
She said she wants to help those in need. “I don’t care if they have papers or not. I want them to have a good family with services from health, education, and quality opportunities.”
Republican State Senator, Don Huffines of Dallas issued a statement saying, “Today’s resolution by Dallas County is dangerous, irresponsible, and reprehensible. The resolution is irrational, and it is an affront to millions of law-abiding legal immigrants.”
Huffines said, “Senate Bill 4 upholds the rule of law.”
As commissioners heard testimony and debated the resolution Tuesday morning, the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, heard testimony from the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, General John Kelly.
He told Congress that when he visited the Texas-Mexico border with Governor Abbott last week, “I specifically went down to the most affected part of the border, South Texas down around McAllen. We’re not going to be able to build a wall everywhere, all at once. ”
General Kelly said he asked border patrol agents in McAllen if they need more walls there. “They said we need to extend some walls, we need to fill-in some places with physical barriers, their preference is not be something they couldn’t see through. That was a finding for me. They very definitely said yes sir, we need a physical barrier backed up by people like us in Customs and Border Patrol and local law enforcement with technology where it’s appropriate.”
But Cameron County Commissioners Court Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. disagreed, telling Congress they should seek other alternatives than the border wall because it would create a false sense of security.
During the hearing, Congressman McCaul asked the Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw what Texas would want from the federal government.
McCraw said Texas wants to be reimbursed for the $2.3 billion it has spent so far to secure the border.
Here is the resolution passed by Dallas County Commissioners:
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