Saturday, March 31, 2007

Farmers Branch goes nuts

Letter to Dallas Morning News

Mike Ghouse Nov 14, 2006

My concern is the vigilantism that may surface. I believe, the Immigration issue be best handled by our Federal Government. Let's not take law into our own hands, it sets dangerous precedents. We will come to regret the City’s decision.

Without any doubt, all should learn English. It is the language of communication and it is in the interests of those who do not speak to really take the time to learn it. Inability to communicate on our own, puts us at a disadvantage.

We are in it together for the safety, security and well being of Americans and we have to honor different opinions, whether we agree or not. That's what makes America the greatest country on the earth, a beacon of democracy and freedom.

Our pledge is our faith in one nation under God with liberty and justice to all. There must be a reason, the founding fathers did not insert the words “justice to Citizens”. And for over 200 years we have followed our constitution and we should honor the wisdom of our founding fathers. Jesus welcomes and embraces all whether we are In the picture: Dr. Marco Rico, Domingo Garcia, Roberto Alonzo and Mike Ghouse Lepers or socially un-acceptable. Let’s follow his path, the right path.

Mike Ghouse

Think about it:

If you or I forget the wallet at home....and cannot produce the ID to the Cops whom we trust, does it give room to a few to treat us differently? What if three people in a row were hauled off, and 4th one is one of us?

You and I may not look Hispanic, what if someone does? what if a legal Hispanic forgets the wallet? If any one treats you and I differently than the undocumented alien, except the immigration officers, would that be the right thing to do? Does one have to look like some one else to get a different attitude? No, All need to be treated with justice and fairness.

I believe, the Federal government should stop illegal immigration, not the Local police and property owners. I would not want to look suspiciously at the hard working peaceful neighbor next door.

Those few who are calling the one's who oppose in less than glowing terms, need to realize, that it is the hype not the fact. Americans, including Hispanic-Americans and all other Americans want English to be the language of communications, and want secure borders and want the Federal Government to handle the issue.

I am writing this because I office in Farmers Branch, and I forgot to bring my wallet today (11/17/06) and have to drive around... I was worried first, then I said to myself, let me see what happens to me.

Added: 11/20/06

Illegal immigration should be stopped, and no one should enter the United States without documentation. We must welcome all through proper documenation. We have the INS to handle it and we should let them handle it.

Let us support our police in thier efforts to keep our neighborhoods safe and focus on lowering the crime rate. Let's not burden them with additional duties. It will cost the City funds and it might lend itself to vigilantism. Safety of its residents as its chief goal of Police.

Let us help the new immigrants learn English to communicate, it is in their interest to learn the language to properly understand the rights and duties of a resident of a city.

Please let me know if you differ and that would be fine with me, as democracy is all about accepting and respecting each others opinions.

Council discusses legal ramifications of immigration measures

Associated Press
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas - Council members were in a closed meeting with the city attorney Monday to discuss legal ramifications of proposals intended to keep illegal immigrants away from this Dallas suburb.

It was unclear whether the proposals, which would make English the official language of Farmers Branch and fine landlords and businesses that deal with illegal immigrants, would go to a vote Monday.

Opponents of the measures, meanwhile, collected signatures on a petition urging the city not to become the first in Texas to pass such strong anti-immigrant laws. They submitted more than 80 signatures to the mayor's office Monday.

"It's very much against the very fiber of this nation," said Mike Ghouse, a homebuilder with a local group called Foundation for Pluralism who has an office in Farmers Branch.

Supporters say the ordinances are necessary because the federal government has failed to address the issue. Critics argue the proposals could lead to sanctioned discrimination and racism.

Attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights advocacy group, told city council members that the proposals could violate federal law if approved.

The group said it would evaluate any measures approved by the council to determine their legality.

The rules could force untrained business owners and landlords to evaluate a wide array of immigration documents to determine if the person carrying them is legally in the country, MALDEF staff attorney Marisol Perez said.

"You're putting them in the shoes of an immigration officer," she said she told council members.

More than 50 municipalities nationwide have considered, passed or rejected similar laws, but until now that trend hasn't been matched in the Lone Star State.

Such sentiments and the proposed ordinances trouble many people in Texas, where many Latino families can trace their roots here to the era before statehood.

Since 1970, Farmers Branch has changed from a small, predominantly white bedroom community with a declining population to a city of almost 28,000 people, about 37 percent of them Hispanic, according to the census. It also is home to more than 80 corporate headquarters and more than 2,600 small and mid-size firms, many of them minority-owned.

"They're afraid that Farmers Branch is becoming Hispanic," said Christopher McGuire, a resident of the city and spokesman for a group called United Farmers Branch. "It's going to happen, and that's not a bad thing."

The local debate over illegal immigration began in August and spawned demonstrations by both sides.

The proposals follow a vote this year in Hazleton, Pa., to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, deny business permits to companies that employ them and require tenants to register and pay for a rental permit.

However, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the Hazleton ordinance while he considers a lawsuit against the town by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

Farmers Branch City moves against illegal immigrants

08:45 AM CST on Tuesday, November 14, 2006

By STEPHANIE SANDOVAL / The Dallas Morning News

Farmers Branch on Monday adopted strict measures against illegal immigrants, requiring apartment renters to provide proof of citizenship or residency and making English the city's official language.

The City Council also unanimously agreed to let police apply to participate in a federal program that would enable them to check the residency status of suspects in custody and initiate deportation proceedings in certain cases.

The measures, believed to be the first of their kind in Texas, brought cheers from supporters but sparked anger among some Hispanics and other opponents that the action will cause further racial tension in the city.

Protesters gathered at Farmers Branch City Hall hours before Monday night's City Council meeting. Shouting matches periodically erupted outside the council chambers between supporters and opponents of the ordinances. Some Hispanic activists said they will sue the city over the decisions.

"Tomorrow in the courts. I'm winning tomorrow," said Jorge Rivera, an Irving community activist. When he addressed the crowd after the decision, he said in Spanish, "Don't worry, we are going to win."

Dallas activist Domingo Garcia also vowed to sue.

Representatives of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, however, said the language of the resolutions and ordinances approved Monday are different from what other cities have adopted – and over which they have sued. They said they will have to review the language before deciding whether to pursue legal action against Farmers Branch.

"It's hard for us to have firm, specific legal opinions, but we're all disappointed they chose to pursue this divisive path," said Rebecca Bernhardt, immigration, border and national security policy director for the ACLU of Texas.

Luis Figueroa, legislative staff attorney for MALDEF, said he, too, was disappointed.

"Farmers Branch will likely feel the negative effects of this measure in its economy, as well as with increased racial tensions," he said.

Farmers Branch resident David McKenzie rejoiced at the city's decision.

"I'm happy, very happy," he said. " 'Surprised' is the word. I think it gets it going in the right direction. It's a start. ... I think it will be symbolic. I really do."

The English as the official language resolution means that the city generally will not provide documents any longer in Spanish but does not affect the use of Spanish by businesses or individuals.

"This is not meant to keep anyone from speaking Spanish or any other language in their home, at their workplace, in public or anywhere else," City Council member Tim O'Hare said.

A separate resolution calls for the Police Department to apply to enter into an agreement with ICE to essentially train a jail officer and give that person access to a federal database to check the immigration status of people in custody for crimes.

Under the rental restrictions, apartment owners and managers would be required to obtain papers showing citizenship or eligible immigration status from each member of a family planning to live there.

Also Online
Groups debate immigration

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The ordinance will go into effect Jan. 12 and will not affect anyone with an existing lease or rental agreement.

Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, with each day a separate offense.

Wylie resident Sherry Wilkinson said earlier Monday that she wants her city to do the same thing.

"As soon as it happens here, I'm taking it to Wylie," she said. "The key is to get it done here."

Hundreds of people crowded into City Hall earlier Monday, filling the council chambers and spilling over into the lobby.

Billy Bruce of Duncanville was among those making his views known at Farmers Branch City Hall on Monday night. Outside, nearly two hours before the meeting, dozens of protesters stood outside waving American flags and chanting, "People united will never be divided," and "What do we want? Justice. When? Now."

They bore signs asking, "Mr. O'Hare, What would Jesus do?" and saying, "In God We Trust, O'Hare is unjust."

Mr. O'Hare thrust Farmers Branch into the national spotlight in August with suggestions that the city emulate cities in other states that had adopted local ordinances making it harder for illegal immigrants to live and work there.

Earlier O'Hare suggestions that were not addressed by the council Monday were to penalize businesses that hired illegal immigrants and to curtail city subsidies for children of illegal immigrants in some city youth programs.

The council debated the merits of those proposals and the legal issues surrounding them behind closed doors Monday, citing state open meetings laws that allow governmental bodies to meet privately for consultation with their attorneys regarding pending litigation.

Moments before closing the doors, representatives of MALDEF briefed the council on the legal and financial ramifications of adopting such ordinances.

Farmers Branch police told resident Gerald Colgrove, who supported the limitations on illegal immigrants, that he'd have to leave during the shouting outside the council meeting. During the meeting, a flurry of shouting matches periodically erupted outside, the two sides separated by a few feet and exchanging slogans and accusations of racism.

Police escorted one woman off the property, and another was taken into custody for disorderly conduct.

Mr. Rivera led opponents with a megaphone, appealing for calm during moments of tension as more than a dozen police officers monitored the situation.

As members of Hispanic and civil rights groups led their followers in chants of "We are Americans," one woman shouted back, "No you're not."

Chants of "U.S.A." by opponents of the proposals were met by shouts of "Enforce the law" by a small group of supporters.

"We understand we have some big problems. We don't support illegal immigration," said Luis de la Garza, a Farmers Branch resident and secretary for foreign relations for LULAC's national organization.

Staff writers Paul Meyer and Katherine Leal Unmuth contributed to this report.


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