In Our Backyard

Fewer states are closer to the debate over illegal immigration than ours—and fewer people have more opinions about it than we do. Just ask these Texans.

Fewer states are closer to the debate over illegal immigration than ours—and fewer people have more opinions about it than we do. Just ask these Texans.

Photographs by Van Ditthavong

Eloisa Tamez

Eloisa Tamez • 75

Tamez is an associate professor of nursing at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. in 2009 the Department of Homeland Security constructed a fence along the river levee that runs through her property.

Our elected officials are failing to address the real problems and trying to make a few of us in South Texas pay for it all. They persist with this notion that the wall is going to solve everything, but the wall has been up long enough for us to know otherwise.

Mark Davis

Mark Davis • 52

Davis is the host of the conservative radio talk program The Mark Davis Show and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News . He lives in Flower Mound.

America’s greatness was forged at the hands of immigrants who came here respecting the laws and vowing to assimilate. Today’s immigrants too often expect America to conform to them.

Lázaro García

Lázaro García • 42

GarcÍa emigrated from Guanajuato, Mexico, when he was 16. A permanent resident, he lives with his wife and two children in Austin, where he works as a carpenter.

My parents were farmworkers. There were no jobs, so my father crossed the border for seasonal work. Mostly cotton. As the oldest of eight, I was the first to follow. In 1986 he qualified for amnesty, and I got papers as an agricultural laborer. One by one, the rest of my family also applied to come. I then had the good fortune of meeting a carpenter who taught me his trade. I’ve worked on houses for twenty years now, and I’m always busy—when you do good work, people call you. I supervise many men who remind me of my younger self, and I counsel them on how to make a life here legally. I don’t think we’re taking anyone’s job. There’s plenty of work, it’s just that many people find it too hard and too low-paying.

Daniel Hickey • 35

Hickey is an agent at the Weslaco Border Patrol station, which oversees forty miles along the Rio Grande.

I came here about three and a half years ago. Originally I’m from outside Philadelphia. They called me up and said, “We’d like to offer you a position in Weslaco.” I said, “Great. Where’s that located?” They said, “Near McAllen.” I said, “Well, where’s that located?” I’d never been to South Texas. Since I arrived, the progress we’ve made—the quality of agent on the ground, the technology—is incredible. It’s disconcerting to hear people say that the federal government isn’t doing enough on the border. If you saw the number of arrests we make and the amount of narcotics we interdict, you’d be amazed.

Dob Cunningham

Dob Cunningham • 76

Cunningham is a rancher whose stock farm borders two miles of the Rio Grande near Quemado, about fifteen miles north of Eagle Pass. He has lived there since 1949.

Before the economy went downhill, illegals were coming through daily, from Ten people in a group to more than one hundred. They knocked fences down, scattered our livestock, left trash. It used to be that people came to work the season and then returned, but about twenty years ago, they began bringing their families, with no intention of going back. I’ve seen baby bottles and little footprints in the mud. Some of the people I’ve encountered make you want to cry, they’re so desperate. Or you’ll run into one that’s snake-bit or has a broken leg. Of course we always feed and doctor them.

Adryana Boyne

Adryana Boyne • 45

Boyne is the national director of VOCES Action, a nonprofit organization that engages Latinos on conservative matters, as well as a spokesperson for the Republican party on Hispanic issues. She lives in Highland Village.

I was born in Puebla, Mexico. I arrived here legally, on a student visa, and went through the proper process to become a U.S. citizen in 1994. I joined the GOP because Republicans believe in the right to life and a free-enterprise system that lets you keep most of the money you earn—values that all Latinos I know believe in. And it’s simply not true that Republicans are anti-immigration. Yes, we believe in securing the border. But we also know how important blue-collar workers are to the economy. We want to make obtaining a work visa more efficient; all we ask in return is respect for the law. Becoming an American is such a great honor it shouldn’t just be given away.

J Carnes

J Carnes • 35

Carnes is the president of Winter Garden Produce, a grower of broccoli, cabbage, and onions in Uvalde.

Right now I’ve got about fifteen employees, because we’re just planting, but in the spring I’ll hire up to five hundred. We harvest the crop, clean it, grade it, box it, cool it, and sell it to H-E-B, Walmart, and others. We rely mostly on contract labor. In 2005 we lost about $250,000 in crops because we couldn’t find enough labor. In this business, we’ve got the weather and the changing market prices to deal with; one problem we shouldn’t have is a shortage of labor, especially if we’re playing by the rules. Employer sanctions will only hurt those who really contribute to the state’s economic output.

The Reverend John W. Bowie

The Reverend John W. Bowie • 71

Bowie is the pastor of True Light Missionary Baptist Church, in Houston. He was part of an effort by the city’s clergy to discuss immigration reform in their Fourth of July sermons this year.

When Jesus talks about who is on the Lord’s side and who is not, he says, “I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in.” He taught that we must be good to the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the stranger. Immigration reform is a difficult message for my congregation, which is predominantly black, to embrace. Many feel that we just got to the place of being accepted, and now our jobs are being taken by others. One of the


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