Riddle vs. Martinez-Fischer: the immigration debate
Wed May 19, 2010 4:27 am

The following is my best effort at an accurate transcription of the debate that took place last night on Radio Station KRLD in Dallas. Scott Braddock moderated the debate.

Braddock: (to Riddle) What do you want to see happen?

Riddle: This is all about border security. The bill that I am working on is only about a page and a half, it is not identical, I would not even say it is similar to the Arizona bill. I think the folks in Arizona certainly have the right to protect their people any way that seems necessary. They certainly have a problem with violence, just as we do on our border here in Texas.

Braddock: You say it’s not similar. What would your bill do?

Riddle: It’s still very much a work in progress. Basically what it does is, in the event someone is stopped that law enforcement has reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed, and they have reason to believe that that person has entered the country illegally, then they can ask for status. It has to be very reasonable cause. I have used the example of an eighteen wheeler barreling down Interstate 45 at 90 miles an hour. Of course a police officer is going to stop that individual. If the individual driving doesn’t speak English, doesn’t have insurance, has no ID, doesn’t have a driver’s license, and hears noise in the back of that vehicle, and there’s 40 folks crammed back there, that’s probable cause, even that somebody is involved in human trafficking.

Braddock: It seems like some kind of obvious violation. Representative
Martinez-Fischer, tell me where you’re at on that.

Martinez-Fischer: The beauty of what Debbie is speaking about is nobody has seen her legislation. I can’t give you a point-by-point criticism. All I’ve heard is that Debbie supports the Arizona legislation and she intends to file similar legislation in Texas. By virtue of the fact that Debbie is changing her idea is probably proof positive that it wouldn’t work well in Texas.

Riddle: He could have read that legislation, I introduced it last session. People all over the state have seen what House Bill 49 looks like and have read it. I think that law enforcement already has this ability. That’s how they make crimes. That’s how they make arrests, is that there is a reasonable suspicion that somebody is out to do something illegal.

Braddock: If that’s true…[Riddle: Then he actually could have read the bill. It’s House Bill 49, it’s been all over the place.] If you do have a situation like you said, where the cops already have the ability to make the arrests, is there a problem with reaffirming that?

Martinez-Fischer: What I’m saying is that law enforcement already has their jobs spelled out. Whether or not what Debbie is working on is going to change that, I don’t think it answers the problem. In fact, I think it makes it worse. Everybody knows that Sheriff Joe Apaio is the sheriff from Phoenix, Maricopa County, and he does all kinds of crazy and creative things, and it has been well documented that when they started turning their police department into an immigration enforcement agent, that it took away from actual crime, and if you look at response times to calls, those have increased. Arrest rates have dropped. Thousands of felony warrants have not been executed, because you have local law enforcement doing things they were not signed up to do. I would rather take Debbie’s House Bill 49 and turn it into a resolution to tell Congress, Hey, get off your butt and do something, not just Democrats but Republicans too. In 2006, you found twelve Republican United States senators who favored comprehensive immigration reform. You can’t find them anywhere near immigration reform today.

Braddock: Representative Riddle, let me ask you about the point that you have officers, and Governor Perry made this point, that you would have law enforcement officers dealing with immigration, and not be dealing with violent crime.

Riddle: I respectfully disagree with that, but I am not here to debate Arizona’s law. The people of Arizona have made the decision of how to take care of the number one priority, and that is that the safety and security of the people of Arizona is well established. The bottom line that I have said over and over, since I first got elected back in 2003, this is not a new issue to me, is that he number one priority of every elected official, from the state house to the White House, is to make sure that the safety and security of the people of Texas is well established, and if we do not do that, and do that well, there is no number two priority. The fact is that we have 9,000 criminal illegal aliens in our Texas jails today. That is costing Texas taxpayers $13.5 million dollars a month while we wait for Uncle Sam to deport them. We are spending $4.5 billion per year on services for people who are not here legally. At this point we have a little over a million illegal immigrants here in Texas. I believe that the first thing we need to do is secure our borders. And we must, because not even Trey can deny that we are having serious issue with violent crimes, like with the drug cartels,the violent gangs, and the human trafficking.

Braddock: Let me ask him about that. What about the fact that we do have some of this border violence spilling over. I think anybody who takes a look at this will easily be able to say that we have a real problem. So what should be done about it?

Martinez-Fischer: First, border security has nothing to do with the number of immigrants in Texas prisons today and whether or not they have a driver’s license, whether or not they have documents to show that they are citizens of this country, it will never happen in a state prison because they are behind bars. If Debbie has a complaint that Texas prisons are overcrowded with undocumented workers, she is only going to add to that problem with her let-me-see-your-papers legislation because that is where they are going to go when they can’t produce them. In fact, one of the ways Debbie can talk to her colleagues in the Congress, is that we require undocumenteds, once they have been arrested, and charged for their crime, they have to serve their sentences in the State of Texas before they can be deported. Maybe we can change that so that we can get rid those beds that Debbie is complaining about, we can rid those tax dollars that are being spent on housing those immigrants. Having a driver’s license bill is not going to solve that. With respect to violent crimes in Arizona, and Arizona’s right to keep to enforce and keep their state safe. I imagine Debbie saw the same crime statistics I saw. In 2006 and every year subsequent to that, violent crime has been dropping in the State of Arizona. There is no increase in crime in the State of Arizona. The most dangerous city in the western hemisphere is Juarez, Mexico. El Paso, Texas, is ground zero on the war on border violence. They are the second safest city in the country according to the FBI. They are closer to immigration than Debbie will ever be. And I want her to explain to me, if violence is such a big problem along the border, why is El Paso the second safest city in the country.

Riddle: Last week I was in Austin and we had an appropriations hearing, and Norma Chavez, she’s the state representative from El Paso, was sharing with us how dangerous it is, and how many of the people from El Paso are flat evacuating because of the danger there. I will say this: I do not suspect that Trey Martinez-Fischer leaves his wife in a house that is unlocked. I don’t think that when he leaves his place of business, he leaves it unlocked. When he gets out of his car, I don’t think he leaves it unlocked. I don’t think we should leave our border unlocked, for criminals and violent criminals to come across our border and not only go into El Paso but to come into all areas of Texas, and El Paso is suffering the consequences of that. It is time for us to stand up and say, We are a sovereign nation, the United States is a sovereign nation, and the other countries need to respect our sovereignty and they need to respect the citizens of Texas. I flat refuse to make our people, the citizens of Texas, the people who are here legally, go to the back of the line, while we take care of the people who are here illegally, and the people of Texas are saying, Stop it!

Martinez-Fischer: I respect Debbie as a colleague as I respect all my colleagues. The immigration bill is bad for Texas because it doesn’t solve the problem. There is not one sentence Debbie can put in her legislation that can solve the problem Debbie speaks to. I suspect we need to put the responsibility where it lies, and that’s squarely on the shoulders of Congress, and they need to get together and do their job.

* * * *

If I had been judging the debate, I would have called the debate a draw. Martinez-Fischer won on the arguments, Riddle won on the rhetoric. These were Martinez's two best points:

[I]t has been well documented that when they (Phoenix law enforcement officials led by sheriff Joe Apaio) tarted turning their police department into an immigration enforcement agent, that it took away from actual crime, and if you look at response times to calls, those have increased. Arrest rates have dropped. Thousands of felony warrants have not been executed, because you have local law enforcement doing things they were not signed up to do.

I think Martinez-Fischer (and Rick Perry, who said something similar) are right. We want our law enforcement officials to be out catching the bad guys, not chasing down hapless illegal immigrants.

The other point Martinez-Fischer argued successfully was this sentence near the end of the debate:

There is not one sentence Debbie can put in her legislation that can solve the problem Debbie speaks to.

He's right about this too. It's going to take more than the best draftsman in Lege Council to figure out how to secure the border. Truth to tell, it can't be done.

Riddle's best arguments were rhetorical. She really hit her stride toward the end:

I do not suspect that Trey Martinez-Fischer leaves his wife in a house that is unlocked. I don’t think that when he leaves his place of business, he leaves it unlocked. When he gets out of his car, I don’t think he leaves it unlocked. I don’t think we should leave our border unlocked, for criminals and violent criminals to come across our border and not only go into El Paso but to come into all areas of Texas, and El Paso is suffering the consequences of that. It is time for us to stand up and say, We are a sovereign nation, the United States is a sovereign nation, and the other countries need to respect our sovereignty and they need to respect the citizens of Texas. I flat refuse to make our people, the citizens of Texas, the people who are here legally, go to the back of the line, while we take care of the people who are here illegally, and the people of Texas are saying, Stop it!

Riddle is easy to underestimate. But she is dogged and determined and she knows how to get people stirred up. This is not the last time she is going to be heard from on this subject.

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