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U.S. Congressman Tackles Immigration Reform on Tour of West Texas

U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks to members of the media at El Cosmico in Marfa, August 2017 (KRTS / Katherine Shaughnessy).

U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke visited the towns of the Big Bend this past week and weighed in on immigration reform.


The issue of immigration was pushed again into the national spotlight when President Trump threw his support behind a proposed Senate bill that limits those applying for visas to meet specific requirements.

The proposal doesn’t have broad support among Republican lawmakers and has been criticized by Democratic politicians such as U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who toured the towns of the Big Bend this past week.

Comprehensive immigration reform still seems out-of-reach for federal lawmakers. And the gulf between Democrats and Republicans continues to widen. This is a key issue for Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, who is campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Cruz.

On a recent stop in Marfa, O’Rourke said the reform bill just introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue didn’t cut it.

“Without immigrants,” said O’Rourke, “this country literally does not function. We’ve waited 30 years to have some kind of fundamental reform and improvement in our immigration laws.”

He called the current immigration policy a challenge for Texas businesses, saying “there is literally not a way, not a means today, to bring in the labor necessary to work the cotton fields in the Panhandle, in Lubbock, to work in the restaurants, to work in the farms and ranches throughout this state.”

O’Rourke made national headlines in March when he and fellow Texas Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican, rented a car to bypass a snowstorm to drive 1,600 miles to a vote in Washington D.C., streaming it all on Facebook Live. O’Rourke wants to parlay what NPR playfully called “a bipartisan bromance” into actual legislation.

O’Rourke believes that immigration is an example where the two parties can connect. He described a bill he introduced called the American Families United Act. “Essentially it allows foreign-born family members, who for a technical violation of immigration law have a lifetime ban on re-entry into the United State can go before a federal judge. And that federal judge can determine whether they pose a threat to the country. CLIP

He said he “was able to introduce it with a Republican. And I was also able, after the road trip, to get Will Hurd on that bill.”

The bill is considered a long shot for passage, but O’Rourke has another Democrat and 4 Republicans signed on, so far.

-Reporting by Tom Michael

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.