Smith County residents are calling on U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert to vote in favor of a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children to stay in the country legally.
On Monday and Tuesday, immigration activists delivered a petition containing more than 6,000 signatures calling for Gohmert, R-Tyler, to support a new version of the DREAM Act, an immigration reform bill that Congress has considered on and off since 2001.
Tyler residents Von Criswell and Dalila Reynoso, the program administrator for the East Texas chapter of Justice for Our Neighbors, delivered 4,000 signatures to Gohmert’s office in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Emily Pinal delivered another 2,000 signatures to Gohmert’s Tyler office on Tuesday.
“The petition is to demand a clean DREAM Act,” Criswell said. “The petition is to provide a pathway to citizenship for children who were brought to the United States by a family member and do not have documentation.”
Reynoso said passing a “clean” DREAM Act means Congress should not add language from the bill as an amendment onto another bill, such as a bill that cracks down on immigration.
“Dreamers should not be used as bargaining chips for deportation centers,” she said.
Gohmert responded to the petition by releasing a statement saying he welcomes input from his constituents, but he questioned the veracity of the petition.
“Only a handful of the petitions delivered to my office have actual names and addresses listed, leaving in question whether or not these were from constituents," the statement read. "Many have names written in the same handwriting and ink, and there are numerous unsigned, blank petitions in the stack.”
Gohmert also said the petition asked for a “‘clean’ Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” bill, something he doesn't support. That federal program, called DACA, started under President Barack Obama, and President Donald Trump suspended the program in September. The DREAM Act is more comprehensive than DACA.
“I should again point out that every time any type of DACA legalization is mentioned, we have greater surges of people coming into the country illegally,” Gohmert said. “With each surge, lives are lost and, sadly, a significant number of young girls and boys are molested or forced into a living nightmare of sex trafficking.
“Every young person in America has dreams, and the proper application of the law across the board creates the best chance for the greatest number of young people's dreams to be achieved,” Gohmert said. He also called it “intriguing that we are being asked to change our law so that it is not applied equally to everyone, much like the country they fled."
“There's no time like the present to secure our border,” he said. “The wall must be built where it's needed, and the border must be secured. Then we can work something out regarding those currently here in the United States.”
“Until then, every mention or demand for DACA legalization lures more people into life-threatening situations, sex trafficking, drug running and countless other terrible consequences. Let’s secure our border before we lure any more people in illegally,” he said.
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