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A Death Sentence Or A Solution? Lt. Governor Candidates See Proposed Law Differently
Law enforcement on the border are devoting more time to the increasing number of migrant children crossing into Texas.

The candidates for lieutenant governor have, not surprisingly, staked out opposing positions on a proposal that would speed the return of migrant children to their Central American countries.

The legislation moving through Congress comes from U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo.

It calls for the thousands of Central American children detained at the border to be treated the same as Mexican children.  Within seven days of being apprehended, a judge would hear their plea to stay in the United States.  The judge would then decide on deportation within 72 hours. 

Dan Patrick, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, cites the growing number of children crossing the border into Texas and says he supports the speedy hearing.

“This is not going to slow down until you send a message to the countries by sending the children back,” said Patrick while in Fort Worth Wednesday. 

“There will always be exceptions to a case or someone in great danger.  The judge can decide.  If this isn’t a wake call to everyone in Washington to pass legal immigration reform I don’t know what is,” he said.  

Patrick’s opponent, Democrat Leticia Van De Putte, says the requirement of a hearing within a week of detention could be a death sentence for some children. She says she talked with some of the children while visiting the Brownsville Detention Center Wednesday.

“These children I have visited with first hand don’t remind me of economic immigrants.  They are more asylees, refugees fleeing for their lives,” said Van De Putte.

“What I worry about is a nine-year old child who is unaccompanied, who has seven days to put together the documents that could determine whether that child lives or dies.  I’m worried that may not be enough time.”        

Patrick describes the situation with the young migrants as “chaos.” He says agents needed to prevent drugs and criminals from coming over the border are being diverted to address the unaccompanied children.

Van De Putte believes local law enforcement along the border need more resources, but she says she saw in Brownsville and McAllen a situation that has become more orderly in the past few weeks.   

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.