Dallas forum seeks immigration reform answers



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Posted on July 1, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 3 at 5:12 PM

DALLAS — The pictures of children now in U.S. custody after crossing the border from Mexico have personalized the immigration debate like never before.

"I can’t help but feel compassion, almost to the point of tears," said Dr. Daniel Sanchez, of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. "Parents ... would not send their children away unless they felt their children were in desperate danger."

Sanchez spoke as part of Tuesday’s Forum on the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform, which was hosted by the George W Bush Library and Museum. The forum was put on by AT&T, the Dallas Regional Chamber, FWD.us and Texas Association of Business and Texas Business Leadership Council.

“For the business community, there’s just enormous frustration with the Congress' inability to act,” said Bill Hammond, the CEO of the Texas Association of Business. "Growth is the solution to the problem we face in America. Nearly every problem, growth will be a big help to solving it."

All on the panel agree something needs to change with immigration laws, but answering how is the challenge.

“There are some real concerns about the influx of people who are non citizens of our country," said Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas. "And we have to be aware of that too. We cannot pay no respect to that issue."

Villalba has vocally opposed any form of amnesty. However, he does suggest through proper channels, immigrants should have the option to achieving legal status as an alternative to citizenship. It's something he feels could slow down illegal and dangerous border crossings.

This discussion comes as Dallas County announced it will house 2,000 unaccompanied minors. Government officials estimate that as many as 70,000 children will cross the border alone by year’s end.

The Texas Baptist men are one of several organizations volunteering to help. For Sanchez, it's proof of how desperate the situation is and what length family will go to achieve citizenship.

“People south of the boarder are getting a mixed message," he said. "They’re saying stay away but then they are also being told come."

While the issue is polarizing, reform won’t come without some form of compromise. Organizers hoping Tuesday’s dialogue is a step towards answers.

Email srobertson@wfaa.com