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House Subcommitte Comes to Plano

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Plano, TX – Bill Zeeble: Ostensibly called to discuss employment concerns tied to illegal immigration, the session drew a partisan crowd of about 250 people at Plano city hall. Roughly half held signs reading Secure our Borders. They back the house bill that subcommittee chair Sam Johnson of Plano signed. It would increase border security, penalize those aiding illegal immigrants, and deport those who are undocumented. Attendee Sherry Wilkinson said laws on the books must be enforced, at the risk of the country's foundation

Sherry Wilkinson: They come to America for freedoms we have. If it's continually abused there'll be no more America. Then where will the rest of the world go?

Zeeble: Invited experts, like business executives from HEB grocers and Dunkin Donuts urged improved, rapid & accurate electronic verification of employees' citizenship. They said what's in place now is unnecessarily slow and bureacratic. Audience members weren't allowed to comment. But when a lawyer representing low-income workers spoke of backing their rights regardless of legal status, the crowd was heard

Crowd reacts -

Zeeble: Chairman Johnson hushed the crowd. He knows the house bill must be reconciled with the Senate version that's less harsh. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison co authored a compromise that includes a guest worker plan, but Johnson rejects that too

Representative Johson, subcommittee Chair: Its' no where near the solution we'll come to . It's a step, but its amnesty still, and we're not in favor to that.

Zeeble: Democratic State Representative Roberto Alonzo, who observed the hearing, called it a sham, saying House and Senate members have already debated the issues.

State Representative Roberto Alonzo: The only reason they're doing the hearings is to create anti immigrant sentiment right before the elections.

Zeeble: Chairman Johnson expects some compromise immigration reform bill by November. He doesn't know if it would emerge before or after the election. For KERA 90.1 I'm Bill Zeeble