Where the pro-enforcement truth is referred to as “rhetoric” - Charlie Harper’s (@IcarusPundit) latest (Chamber sponsored?) entry into the immigration conflict. A Peach Pundit panel discussion of “undocumented workers”, immigration, “it’s not amnesty,” “it’s not open borders”, reform, a shortage of workers, crops rotting in the fields, an inability of tourists to rent cars in Georgia, state drivers license law and the show-stealing great-mind of a certified court translator.
Having actually studied “immigration” full time and been active in insisting on enforcement for more than decade I made it clear last month that I would be happy to debate Harper and maybe offer some information. So far he hasn’t acknowledged that challenge. Better for him.
Charlie: Good evening everyone. I’d like to welcome everyone to something that uh we’ve not done before so you’re going to see it the first time. We’re making this up as we go along but I thank you all for coming out tonight.
My name is Charlie Harper. I’m the editor of Peach Pundit dot com. We’re a Georgia political-based website and we for the last almost nine years now have been trying to work around political issues that affect Georgia and Georgians and we’ve mostly done that uh predominantly on the Web. We’ve had a few public meetings before where we’ve uh gone out to various restaurants and just met socially, but uh this is an social issue that uh we seem to be mired in and locked through a lot of conversation where we often have a breakthrough on a problem that as we’re seeing on the news every night right now it’s serious and really and we want to treat it as such.
And so well we try to approach issues on our page uh with a bit of a sense of humor sometimes and a bit of lightheartedness. This is something that’s a little bit different tonight. So we’re actually uh sitting here with a little bit more of a formal setting out in public and we’re going to have a conversation with four folks and myself uh about the very real issue with immigration reform and what might be done to uh start addressing it as the problem that it is instead of political [footfall 00:01:19] that provides great sound bites from people on all sides but are actually reluctant to do frankly anything on addressing the issue while it clearly is getting worse on a daily basis.
And so that uh as I said I’ve got uh four folks on the panel. And uh there is Mr. Jorge Fernandez from Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Uh he is the Vice President of Global Commerce and he’s going to talk a bit about the challenges that are faced uh from the business community for maintaining the status quo where just frankly it’s not working for, for folks on all sides.
We have Miss Maria Cortes. She is a certified court interpreter for the Doraville Municipal Court. She has worked in various levels of state agencies as the customer interface that, that gets to see on a daily basis uh how this problem uh is affecting the services that we’re trying to deliver and have to deliver uh because the problem has not been solved.
We have DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer. Uh she’s going to talk from similar angle but much more of the person that actually has to deal with how to appropriate local tax dollars because the federal government has really abandoned its responsibility to, to deal with this problem.
And then we have Mr. Will Kramer. He is the Chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans. Will uh is going to talk about this frankly from a political side because while a lot of us are very familiar with the rhetoric that gets used around this issue uh frankly uh I know in my experience of working with young Republicans and college Republicans they hear the, the rhetoric very different. And uh he’s going to deal with that specifically not just from how it hits the college Republicans but frankly how it hits different segments of the voting population, and how we’re really setting ourselves up if you’re a Republican uh for failure in the future uh because of damage we’re doing based on the rhetoric today. And that’s something we’ve got to figure out how to message that there needs to be a problem solved while not turning all the potential voters and existing measures while solving the said problem.
And so with that uh I’m just going to address something very much right up front. I’ve seen some e-mails and some other social media saying that you have [inaudible 00:03:28] tonight. I’ve asked everyone up here individually and I’m asking [inaudible 00:03:34] make everyone stop to talk and we’ve got our different minds but amnesty and the definition of amnesty is [inaudible 00:03:42] party with no consequences. Uh there is no one up here that is for amnesty uh period so before … Yeah whatever you hear tonight you can start with that. We’re not here to talk about amnesty.
We’re also not here to talk about opening the borders and allowing anyone that wants to come in and access anytime in any way they want without documentation. That is not the solution that we’re talking about. If that’s what you came to hear tonight you did not hear the right thing so that is not what we’re talking about. We are talking about how to get back to a system but frankly we have an administration that has chosen to uh essentially ignore the law [inaudible 00:04:21] and how we get back where everyone is li- living within legal status, within a documented status, so that the system works and it’s respected.
That’s generally what we’re here to talk about tonight so I wanted to make that clear, and with that I’m going to let everyone up here take a few minutes to kind of talk very specifically from how their experience uh in their daily life is affected by this problem and some of the issues they see that as we work towards understanding … Everyone is here tonight because we want to see some sort of solution. We truly believe the status quo is not working and is not acceptable and that doing nothing is not an acceptable solution to this problem, that we have to figure out how to get back to where we need to be. So with that I’m going to let Mr. uh Fernandez start and, and kind of talk about what do you see is in the challenges from, from the business community.
Jorge: Yeah. Um let me take my … Let me just tell you a little bit so we can [inaudible 00:05:17] on who we are and what we do. I’ve been making a lot of changes or reforms of all 29 counties of the Metro area. Uh that’s about six million people, and our main uh focus is to grow the economy through job creation and there, there are three ways of doing that. One is the, the recruitment of companies [inaudible 00:05:36] jobs. The second is to help Atlanta-based companies grow uh with markets particularly international markets.
We also connect with universities through research um both in the United States with companies and overseas and, and what, what we do uh from the international perspective is that recruitment of foreign companies. And, and what, what it means is that for every 10 companies that come to Georgia, 40 percent of those are foreign companies and these companies come here to create jobs. They have to bring executives with them and the way the current rules are is a hindrance to recruiting those companies uh because of the order systems for the H-1B visas that every company has to, to uh to abide with.
The other one that we hear constantly is the fact that the universities are training bright minds coming here. In fact education-reforming students is one of Georgia’s top exports if you will. Uh and, and those students come here, they get trained, but they cannot … They can’t stay here because they cannot be hired. They don’t have the visas by Georgia companies or even foreign companies that are here, and by the way foreign companies that are here create Georgian position. It’s a job created here and it is a challenge for those universities and for us for that matter for each one in this room.
The fact that we’re putting the brightest, the, the smartest and the brightest mind and we have to let them go so it is an issue of a brain drain that we … that we are … that we are having and we need to address this issue.
Charlie: Thank you. Thank you, sir. Miss Cortes.
Maria: Well um I’m an immigrant myself. I was born in Cuba and my family uh took about eight years for us to make it to the United States. We had a sponsor. My father had to cut sugar cane with criminals as penitents still in Cuba so we value the liberties, we value the freedom and the opportunity and we love the United States of America.
With that being said I have for the last 14 years worked as a Spanish interpreter in both [inaudible 00:07:59], the court systems and also uh social programs with kids with disabilities and such. Uh and everyone that I interpret for um about 98 percent are undocumented parents uh whose children have been born in the United States. Um they don’t have a lot of income. They don’t have so uh the legal status. Their children are receiving Medicaid, food stamps. They are in the … in the public school systems, um and the social services are … But the parents and these children are living under awful situations and, and a blind eye is given to this. The victim are the children um and there is just a huge problem.
On the other side I have also interpreted at the school systems. Many of these children that are brought really young uh that are in our school systems end up getting involved in gangs, end up get- having problems. Uh they have learning disabilities. Their parents are not able. Many of them have a second-grade education uh because they are undocumented. They are scared of everything and um and the kids get involved in really bad situations. We are seeing a lot of sex trafficking and drug abuse and, and the gangs are growing uh to such a number. Uh it’s almost like you have two public schools with the same school. You have the regular kids and then you have all these kids and these kids eventually will end up on the streets.
And then we go to my last interpreting position, in the court system where um you have people that are stopped for a red light and they do not have a driver’s license and it happens once and it happens twice, and then on the fourth time it’s a felony now because of the law that was passed a few summers back. And once that happens in that case will then be transferred to the state court of DeKalb County and many of them are in DeKalb County Jail or [inaudible 00:10:20] County Jail and um the taxpayers are paying for this. Um when I tell them you cannot drive, you do not have a Georgia license um it just doesn’t register.
So at the state level it is my personal opinion from my work that I’ve done in the community because of the lack of enforcement at the federal level, immigration laws, protection of the borders, we have to know who is coming in and out. I’m a U.S. citizen now. This is my home. Uh I have lived in Europe and I came from a Communist country. Uh I don’t know of any country in the world that lets you come in and out without knowing who you are. I don’t … I still have to travel to a country that doesn’t ask me for my passport but we need to know who’s coming in. We need to know.
We need to protect the children. Uh they’re getting trafficked in and they are being abused and, and in a federal level uh nothing is being done and the states, the municipalities, the cities, the counties are expected to, to fix this and it’s impossible, and that’s my personal opinion.
Charlie: Well thank you very much. We’re going to I think get back to that issue of children coming in because that is what we’re seeing on the news every day so [inaudible 00:11:42] for that. But as a child uh immigrant in the country as well as that’s what you’re working with every day uh I have a feeling that’s going to be quite topical. Uh Commissioner Boyer you, you’ve heard of kind of the services that she describes she worked with every day that cost the taxpayers money and you get to allocate that money. Um tell us how that works.
Boyer: It was a perfect segue. We’re going to need to organize that discussion (laughter) um but coming from DeKalb County government I have served in the government role as a commissioner for 22 years now. And in 2007 when these laws were passed we the county government are told we now have to start implementing so we had to start going and putting on seminars and trying to train our personnel on how to report, and reporting is in several fashions. And one of the ones that um I spoke with the departments about in preparation for this was what departments would be receiving or offering public benefit?
So number one would be personnel and obviously you’re going to be hiring so you have to check did you verify? You have to make sure that whomever you hire is going to receive a public pension or insurance that they meet the criteria uh that you verified and uh save communities.
Then um I spoke with the police department and asked how they handle that. Well the police department in DeKalb says that we, we picked up people when we feel that the crime has been committed. Then we’re going to transport them to the jail where the jail is in fact the enforcer of immigration. And then DeKalb County Jail and speaking with our sheriff whatever the crime and whatever the charge is they are then either finding out or they’re held, and once they are fingerprinted and then they are um put into the system it goes through the FBI and then into Homeland Security. And at that point Homeland Security calls DeKalb County Jail and says we want you to place an ICE hold for two days and allow us to come and detain whomever it is, so in speaking with the sheriff that’s how we handle it.
The other department that is impacted is Parks and Recreation, and how that is impacted is we are um given a lot of [inaudible 00:13:59] grants from the state for instance vouchers and summer programs, um after-school programs. We if we’re passing on those vouchers have to verify that whomever receives those vouchers is uh in fact a legal resident of the country. Now the um one issue that we came about was with the new court that has been formed and um that was recent. We were passed through for a grant and the issue from the newly-formed uh board was did in fact we verified the charity workers that they were legal, so before we could even give the vouchers to that charity now we have to verify that the charity has all the documented workers.
So the long and the short of it for county government as it is passed down to the front bearers is the more staff we have to hire and the more regulations and reporting that we have to do by federal mandate, is the trickle-down effect. We are the ones that are then the enforcers, and as you all know all government is local and the feds and the state is to continue to pass down to us. So those are some examples of how we in county government have been put this onus on us to try to verify and it’s really the federal government in my opinion that needs to fix this system and not pull all of the um onus on the local government.
Charlie: Thank you Commissioner, and with that we’ve had three people talk about the various problem as it actually exists and so then we’re going to uh look to Chairman Kramer to put a bit of a political spin to that because to fix the problem uh it’s a political solution. And uh while again um we, we try to do what we can do at the state level but ultimately it’s a federal government issue to solve it and currently we’re looking at the House of Representatives which is Republican-controlled to what that solution is going to be.
Uh the Senate has come up with their version and it’s not very well liked in the House so the Republicans have to decide on a message, so Will how do we get a message and a problem solved through the House that addresses the problem that ultimately possibly can be at least implemented through if not this Senate perhaps the one that will take office next January? Uh but do we do that without upsetting the, the legal and [inaudible 00:16:26] uh at this point and, and those that otherwise … Again as a generational thing I think you shared with me before and you can tell the audience. It’s, it’s not just immigrants that are turned off by the residents so taking [inaudible 00:16:37].
Will: Well my, my … As Charlie said my name is Will Kramer. I am the state chairman for the Georgia Association of College Republicans which is comprised of thousands of college students who are Republicans. Uh our main goal is to recruit the next generation of Republican leaders and to make sure that Millennials return to voting Republican.
Um what a Millennial is … The, the generally uh accepted definition is someone born between the years of 1982 and 1999 give or take a few years depending on who you’re speaking to. So what, what we do is we call the Millennials going to campus and we talk to people. We talk to our classmates, uh our roommates, our friends, whomever it is and whenever we, we talk to them and we, we run into a Democrat which happens more often that I’d like uh we ask them, “Why are you a Democrat?” Uh we get a plethora of answers. It can range from anything from, “I support Obamacare,” to uh, “I support gay marriage.” And a lot of young people are single uh single-issue voters so …
But, but there, there are a few recurring themes whenever you talk to a Millennial. Uh they, they are the Republican Party is the party of No. We never offer solutions. We just say No. The second thing is that we lack compassion. We uh we hate people. We hate women. We hate minorities. We uh just … We hate gays. Just throw in whatever you want and Republicans hate them, of course. Uh and the, the last part is that we just … We aren’t diverse. Uh how, how do we recruit uh young Hispanics, young African-Americans uh into our party within our representative?
Uh that … That’s the big issue with Millennial voters, and so when it comes to immigration and you talk to a young person about that issue they, they have a completely different perspective than anyone who would be sitting on this panel because we don’t see them as these invaders coming to America to destroy our country. We see them as our friend that we had an art class with in elementary school. We see them as our friend that used to come to our house and play games with whatever uh console you want to throw in there. We see them as our friend that we graduated high school with. That’s how we view them.
We don’t view them as these monsters. We don’t view them as people coming to suck off of government programs so whenever you’re addressing the immigration issue and a young person sees that, and we see you screaming and hollering that they are evil people, that doesn’t register well with us. Uh we, we don’t see that in a … in a … in a constructive way.
Uh we want a solution. We don’t want uh we, we don’t want them sucking off of government programs but at the same time uh you have to understand who you’re talking to with your audience and as the people that work to recruit the next generation of Republican leaders we need to make sure that our party can uh is, is welcoming to them and it’s … With some of the rhetoric going on it’s certainly, certainly not welcoming to uh to young Hispanics. So I, I hope to offer some political insight into that and how um a Millennial can uh understand the immigration issue today.
Charlie: Well thank you all for, for, for laying out [inaudible 00:19:55]. Um I think we can start with what Will is talking about and work our way back into some of the other issues. But you know we’re uh in [inaudible 00:20:03] County which uh the, the make-up of [inaudible 00:20:06] County is changing with all these stories that uh talk a little bit to the audience about [inaudible 00:20:12] work through the legal process. And some of the rhetoric that we are using when we talk about this problem uh how does that sit with those of you that didn’t come here illegally and, and done everything wrong when you hear … How does the current political environment affect you as [inaudible 00:20:27]?
Maria: I would say to, to the Cuban community that immigrated uh in the 60s um just crossing over is, is uh not accepted. Um the … Within the Cuban commun- the Cuban community there are two sets of immigrants. I have met people who have gotten on a boat and they said, “I’ll die in the ocean but I’m not going to stay in Cuba anymore.” Um eight months pregnant … I met a woman, eight months pregnant. She got on a raft. I can’t imagine that.
Um I think that when we … The United States has always been successful because people from different cultures and different countries have come here for centuries and have blended into a whole new nation, bringing in their positives and becoming one, and I think we’re losing this with the way we are approaching immigration and the way we can then approach immigration for the past about 50 years. You, you have to educate the people. Why are you coming to the United States? What is it that the United States uh can offer you um as a citizen of Honduras or Colombia or China or … You have to know why you do things and you have to know why you come. There’s a price you pay.
For us Cubans we left our country. We left our family. My father never saw his parents again. Uh there were many years where we couldn’t even call them. Letters took six months to get there. There was a lot of personal loss. For us coming to the United States it was freedom and we value that freedom. Uh you have to know why you emigrate to a different country. It’s a whole new culture. It’s a lot of things, and I think with … For Americans born in American uh you have to remember that at some point unless you’re a Native American your family emigrated as well so … But I think where we’re losing it.
Where we’re losing the new generation of immigrants is we’re not really teaching them what it means to be an American citizen, and we’re kind of acting like, “Oh well you’re not really here because you don’t have papers.” I think it would be good for America to utilize a much better system of immigration.
You know who’s coming in. You can educate. You can utilize the companies from abroad. They can utilize the students that are already here and so on and so forth.
And actually I have a question for Mr. Fernandez in reference to uh I have got … I’ve had a lot of folks tell me that their work visas were denied uh and they are transient workers. They, they have been coming here for years uh and yet they were denied, and it’s happened uh during the la- this administration, and I don’t understand that when we have farmers in South Georgia whose crops are rotting and no one here that is trained to do that kind of work. It’s hard labor and we have farmers from other countries who are willing to come for three or six months out of the year and do the work and know how to do it well, and yet we are paying uh at the supermarket.
Jorge: Well I for disclosure you’ve spoken [inaudible 00:24:03] today (laughter) uh and uh I, I have very similar … I have a similar story. I came here by myself with my sister and my, my parents were united a year later and [inaudible 00:24:16] and then retired. Um of course we become U.S. citizens. I’m a retired U.S. Air Force pilot that served for 20 years and then I went on to the private sector and so both Maria and I represent what immigrants should be. But the root of the pro- of the problem that we are discussing here today is – it goes back to your question too – is your point of why did you have this discussion?
Every time you talk the word ‘immigrant’ or ‘immigration reform’ it always gravitates towards the negative. It … We have never had a discussion [inaudible 00:24:54] because of the rhetoric that goes out there when um uh about, about the positive or workforce development, and I’ll give you an, an example that a couple of people that are in this room helped us from, from the Chamber and [inaudible 00:25:09] immigrations reform for the foreign … for an expat that is here let’s say from [inaudible 00:25:17] their visa, their work visa, it started uh as [inaudible 00:25:21] for X number of years.
The Georgia driver’s license was its title, uh its title for the visa so the problem was that there was a disconnect when those visa uh the renewal had to be made. Um uh the, the driver’s license expired they couldn’t drive. These are executives with the whole family. I had a case of six families from Samsung that the entire family had to go back to Korea because they could not get the Georgia’s driver’s license so uh some of the [inaudible 00:25:56] here helped us to bridge that gap in order to, to, to find a solution.
But it was very difficult to get that pass because when we talked about um the, the driver’s license, when we talked about reforms, when we talked about immigrants the rhetoric took its own way from the fact, and it took us more of an effort to get away from the rhetoric [inaudible 00:26:21] what is positive. So one of our biggest challenges for recruiting is precisely what we … what we’re talking about. So that’s the purpose of immigration reform is, is from my perspective is how do we embrace the workforce issue? How do we … Uh how do we uh address being able to keep uh, uh the best and the smartest who want to work and to … and to invest in the … in the United States or just like … just like, like you’re saying?
But that discussion has to happen. It is a federal initiative. The state doesn’t have anything so unless we have the dialogue with Washington about the immigration reforms we’re not going to get there. We’ve got to get all the filters out.
Charlie: Well one of the um to, to kind of get back on that uh at, at lunch today I was having lunch with an executive from a Fortune 500 company, I think a Fortune [big 00:27:09] company, and uh one of her frustrations uh on this topic that came up is the number of, of … So you mentioned that in your intro that we have in this country that we educate in our university systems especially for our high-tech jobs that rely very heavily on engineers and we train them and then this company that spends a lot of money supporting higher education and spends a lot of money on, on folks and [inaudible 00:27:34] out of work they cannot get them the visa to hire them and so they go back to their home countries and ultimately end up working for one of our major competitors.
Charlie: And so there’s a … There’s a frustration and then when you get back to the workforce that we’re not … We’re, we’re spending the money currently under the system that we have to, to educate uh at a very high level uh people that are getting skills that are very much in demand and we can’t figure out how to keep them in this country after we have already put the expense on the expense side of the ledger. We kept hurling it at the taxpayers uh even on visa level not even on citizenship or just …
Jorge: Just on the visa.
Charlie: Yeah. Even when we’re talking about an engineering grad I think we’ll probably [inaudible 00:28:18]. Uh there’s a policy [inaudible 00:28:21] that uh the, the starting salary is very high just for an undergrad. If you’re looking at a graduate engineer …
Jorge: [Inaudible 00:28:28] get a work visa. It’s unpredictable.
Charlie: It’s really good.
Jorge: The taxpayer.
Charlie: So that … That’s one frustration that, that I have. And Will do you have any other … And, and you talk about … You said that you’ve seen this growing up but from a uh from a, a college level standpoint is there anything else you can add to that or …
Will: Well I mean coming from a college point of view I, I think y’all hit … Y’all hit the, the nail on the head. I mean it’s … The, there’s … There is no way to keep them here There’s the uh we’re, we’re lagging behind and I mean it’s such a high in-demand job and, and it’s a difficult [inaudible 00:29:03] the best and the brightest and we’re not managing to keep them here in the United States. Uh I mean it’s coll- colleges everywhere are … I mean all, all the you know the engineering students they’re feeling it but we didn’t … It’s, it’s easier to maybe go back home than uh than sit here and try to [inaudible 00:29:21] that they can’t afford.
Jorge: And in keep in mind that for our region where 52 percent of our economy is service-oriented and that when I mean by service there’s engineering, there’s architects, there’s uh, uh the lawyers and so of course the demand it’s, it’s there and that’s where our research universities lead or, or for me [inaudible 00:29:41] and, and, and that is value awareness that, that we … that not only the universities [inaudible 00:29:47] is going mostly to the companies or it will send because they’re going down to their country and we were not able to advance.
You keep in mind that when you look at [inaudible 00:29:56] in terms of jobs for the 21st century which was back to what we talked what. We’re talking about jobs [inaudible 00:30:02] where the science and technology are, are key. Those are the type of jobs of the 21st century. You’re talking about the, the [inaudible 00:30:13] that can be going to those assets and we could keep those assets and we would continue to grow, and we’re pretty known in foreign countries. We’re giving them the opportunity in the United States.
Boyer: I might have a little um different perspective and I agree with what you all are saying but I come from working with inside the county government for 22 years and so my experience is then that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing most of the time. And I think you’re talking about some very good policy issues.
Part of what I think would be the brokenness of getting things organized is the fact that it takes something like 11 years to gain citizenship and I’m talking from a personal of I have a daughter who is at [inaudible 00:30:56] who has a sorority sister um had a visa from Canada. It took them 11 years. Her father was a white collar engineer and it took them 11 years to finally get their citizenship, so I know it from working in county government that you have different departments that don’t speak to each other.
And so the brokenness of trying to fix that actually to me would overweigh even some of the policy decisions because if you can’t get the process to work correctly, and you don’t have the people speaking to each other, I can tell you from a personal experience in my 22 years if I don’t stay on something I’m simply … It doesn’t happen. And it’s not that the government workers are not doing their job but they are not taught to interface on the low- on the lower levels like the department heads. And so a lot of what we’re seeing is just not getting work production done at a quicker and faster rate and maybe streamlining the process.
Charlie: And I think that’s kind of a little bit of a segue into the first part of at least most solutions in most line of the [sand 00:32:02] I see it coming from the GOP side. Will you’ll correct me, perhaps I’m a little off on that, but it’s a secured border and how that ties in to, to what Commissioner Boyer was saying is frankly I know one of Senator Isakson’s main positions is biometric visas uh [inaudible 00:32:19] at this point because depending on whose estimates you believe 40 to 50 percent of the current folks that are here that are undocumented came here legally and are on an expired visa. And so securing the border is something that I know from talking to my friends in D.C. that are actively working on this and have various levels of skepticism but how do determine a border is secure?
It, it, it sounds easy but if we’re envisioning that somehow it’s a wall that’s going to run all the way from Texas to the Pacific Ocean that’s nice and I, I see memes on Facebook all the time that, that show a picture of the southern border in Mexico and yet with this current problem of, of miners coming into the country um 93 percent of the, the miners are estimated to be from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala so ask me how secure that, that wall makes the southern border of Mexico before they look at spending tens of millions of dollars to necessarily think a wall is all that it’s going to take to be secure.
You might want a wall or you may not. Uh I’m not telling you that’s right or wrong. I’m saying that if 40 percent of the people come into the airports with their legal visas I don’t think a wall necessarily solves the problem in and of itself so I think we’ve got to look around it again. I think you’re having the same problem, visa problem, and you [inaudible 00:33:37] the same thing. If we don’t have a system that works to document who is here then it … then saying we’re going to document everyone really kind of misses the marks from a policy perspective because all you’ve done is we got a nice bumper sticker slogan when in practical reality it means nothing.
Will: But look I think it is … There’s no point in really having an immigration reform discussion until you can secure the border. I mean you have to secure the border in order for any solution to work but the problem is securing the border … Uh a little back story. I, I grew up in Texas. I’m a born and raised Texan. I’m very proud of it. You can ask anyone who knows me. I’ll talk about it all the time including [inaudible 00:34:11] and um and it … It’s a big part of me.
But anyways um the … If people are coming here legally through visas and there’s no way to track them … I mean I, I believe she uh she had mentioned it earlier that we are the only country that lets people in and doesn’t know where they … and who they are and where they’re at. I mean it’s the, the huge issue with um with tracking people and, and knowing where they are once they come in here legally so I mean … And, and I know that we all agreed on it. There’s, there’s no real solution until you can secure the border so … And, and a lot of Millennials I might add support uh securing the border in, in a serious way, not building … Not, not just building a wall but a serious crackdown on the border.
Jorge: Yeah. Uh securing the border is uh is, is a metaphor I mean not physically, and we haven’t even talked about the Canadian border that, that [inaudible 00:35:02]. Uh and, and people go to Canada and from Canada [inaudible 00:35:07]. It’s amazing. Even, even from a terrorist’s perspective the trains that come through uh it’s … So securing the border it’s a lot more than just a wall and uh so this insinuation … And again it goes back to … It goes against the immigration reforms so we can talk about the whole aspect of this and not just at … not just a piece of it we’re saying otherwise it’s not going to work.
Maria: Um 50 years ago … I, I think the United States has had a good immigration policy. I think it’s been fair. I think uh it’s not perfect. No government is perfect uh but I think that in the past 50 … Look at U.S. history. Um they have welcomed uh people from war-torn countries like Vietnam. Um because of all the history with Cuba there was a way to get here legally and people were willing to wait to pay the price and do it legally and we did that. My family did that and it was a high price to pay but it was worth the freedom that we received when we came to the United States.
I think that somewhere after Vietnam in the late 70s and so on and now we’re here, then people just don’t have a way to come here legally and it doesn’t matter if they are uh graduates of Georgia Tech, MIT, Texas A&M with PhDs, and have come to the United States legally and they have been here legally and they abide the law and they have something to give to the country … It’s not working anymore. It’s almost as if the Department of Immigration is sabotaging uh our system purposefully.
You cannot uh if you were born in a slum somewhere in another country and your own government thought nothing of you, you don’t think about laws. You think about how you’re going to eat the next day and you say to yourself, “If I die trying to get to the United States then I die, but I’m going to leave this place.” So that’s the human perspective, and one of the most wonderful things about the United States is that it’s always had uh an open heart and looks at the human aspect of the situation. This is atrocious what is happening with these children. They are being trafficked here. I mean it’s … They are human. They’re, they’re being put into the sex trade industry at an enormous trade. We cannot turn our heads.
At the same time we need to just … We need to clean up this immigration situation. If the people know in Honduras where the ball is going to stop with the … that they can go to the U.S. embassy, apply for the work visa as a transient worker, come here to work the season of strawberries, blueberries, whatever, if that’s what they do, or they can come and be a gardener for six months. They will go back to their country and they will come back the next season, and you will know who is coming in and out of this country. You will know who is coming in. They will value the United States of America. It will be an opportunity to … and the United States has this workforce that will build our economy and it will work once again. It will.
Jorge: And there’s uh … When, when I was in the military I, I had the opportunity to work in an immigration process of Cubans uh in … well it must be in the 80s [inaudible 00:39:05] it was in the 90s uh when, when the immigration … The immigrants were just crossing in through Guantanamo uh and it created a huge amount of terrorism situation very similar to what … to what’s … to what’s happening um what, what’s happening now. But because it came to, to such a level of, of humanitarian things cleared out in a sense in Washington and we were able to move forward and to create an immigration-type of medium with a country that, that, that we don’t even have diplomatic relations with and it … We made it happen.
But again it goes back to your original point – this can only happen if in Washington [inaudible 00:39:49] we could have a civil discussion about a solution, and pointing fingers and, and [quoting 00:39:56] open slogans and insulting people is not going to happen. It happened over and over and over and there are certain situations today that didn’t happen before that, that the uh, uh … When the Soviet Union collapsed so therefore anybody that came … that was coming from a Communist country they have preferential status. That’s no longer the case so what we have right now are basically economic immigrants and in a … in a world of instant communications uh, uh the word gets out [inaudible 00:40:24]. But again it has to … We have to open up our minds and bring it back to, to address the issue from a comprehensive uh perspective which I think is what you’re trying to say.
Jorge: [Inaudible 00:40:38] and address it and the … and the purpose of what we will discuss today.
Charlie: And, and I’ll throw out one of … I think one of the [inaudible 00:40:44] to having that conversation across the [aisle 00:40:46] um is a lack of trust, and the only other time I’ve been in this room I was asked at the last minute to moderate a panel for another group uh one of the [inaudible 00:40:55] campaign from a couple of years ago when we tried to pass uh one [inaudible 00:40:59] sales tax for transportation, and what we heard over and over again was a lack of trust in the system.
And those that I think are the most reluctant to engage in honest dialogue on this process don’t believe because the current administration is picking and choosing which laws they wish to enforce and they’re kind of dragging things as they go. And there’s a, a 2011 memo I know it is largely being credited as one of the reasons why the, the residents of these three Central American countries would just like to send their kids here because we basically have a non-enforcement status right now to pretty much so that their kids can stay. How do we get that trust back in the system?
Uh I’m not sure anyone up here frankly is qualified to answer that but in the … I think it has to be asked because before we can really get I think um those from especially [inaudible 00:41:47] east side of the aisle that, that just don’t believe that we’re going to enforce laws the next time we rewrite the laws.
Anyone got any suggestions on some baby steps to start to establish trust and what we can do next?
Boyer: I mean just again I go back to having served in government so long is having the process that exists on paper [inaudible 00:42:10] and I don’t know whether that’s happening and I don’t know that our legislators pay attention to that. It’s not only because they’re trying to … That’s what legislators do is creating policy, but as we actually had enforcement of the laws that [inaudible 00:42:24] and actually looked at how the process of putting people forward through their visas and tracking them and we were talking about it earlier, I don’t think that’s being done.
Just from personal experiences and talking with people who are trying to get into the country legally um it, it shouldn’t take them you know 11, 12, 15 years to do that [inaudible 00:42:45] process that’s outlined and you’re moving forward to it. So I wish … you know it’s not only from the legislators’ side. I wish they would look more into what sits on the administrative side. I think that is really a huge problem and I see it daily.
Jorge: Yeah, and also the tools to, to make it [inaudible 00:43:03]. I’m not an expert in this but with that I don’t understand the current goal uh when a … When a child crosses the bor- border illegally before they’re sent back just because of the slave trade and all that [inaudible 00:43:16] to make sure [inaudible 00:43:18]. I don’t understand that there’s … there is a two-year backlog in terms of courts because there are not enough judges. There are not enough tools that you’re talking about so it … Even though it wasn’t in the law right now there are not enough tools to make it happen. Of course you have to get the federal level [inaudible 00:43:36] the local and, and, and so it’s, it’s a very complicated issue.
Will: Well how do you even trust the federal [administration 00:43:41] to execute immigration reforms effectively whenever we’re having an administration that changes the signature health law that passed 17 times through executive order? I mean you can’t trust them to uh to properly go about immigration reform [inaudible 00:43:56] if they’re just going to change that when and where it’s convenient. So I mean it … There is a huge deficit of trust there. Uh I … I’m, I’m unsure if any sort of real immigration reform even goes through under this administration.
Charlie: Um well I guess understanding that challenge uh and that does it make tough. Um at the end of the day I think we all … Again we have the problem is working from the system’s work. Um we know there needs to be again you’re saying more tools and then frankly in a lot of ways that means more appropriation and more money. It’s because we don’t have enough people to actually figure out who is here and document who is here it’s just … That’s going to cost money. Now there is a … There is a proposal before Congress right now coming from the executive branch to do that. Uh Commissioner Boyer clearly is talking about how to factor in the policy. That is not necessarily workable because well we passed many different [inaudible 00:44:55] of laws and there have been very various uh administrative uh procedural rulings from within the executive branch.
It, it still … and I can say from my own experience as someone who a lot of my friends know I’m in politics, whatever that means … Probably more than half the requests I get when someone needs help are dealing with uh INS issues. It’s amazing how many people have to touch that agency and how long those problems go on, and how many files were just flat lost so the people have to start over. So that’s not unique uh to INS by any stretch but uh I can’t say that right now even what we have doesn’t work and so figuring out how we can make what we have work on the way to reforms is [inaudible 00:45:39].
But uh I’m curious in the little bit of time we have left uh kind of the way this got started with when I wrote a column I guess now three weeks ago where I talked about moving away from the term ‘amnesty’ and starting to get to a … The concept of probation is that there is not a blanket pardon given to the people that are here but even that during the last presidential cycle most of the nominees who are Republican the President acknowledged we’re not on board with the 11 or 12 million people that we … You know those that only come here in the last year to possibly have to go back. Uh we’re not going to break up families and send them home.
We’ve got to figure out how to deal with the people that are here so if … If you accept that from this and I don’t know if all of you do and that uh feel free to disagree with what the little bit of time we have left. I mean is there a concept of, of probation that works where folks acknowledge you can possibly pay a fine uh and have to get documented just for an approbatory period before uh they even get in the back of the line to go [inaudible 00:46:35] citizenship. Um anyone have any comments on something like that in terms of just, just changing the dialogue like that or the situation or [inaudible 00:46:43] still the point where we’ve got to have [inaudible 00:46:45] before we even have that conversation?
Boyer: I mean I think we have to have that conversation and I will agree with Will because my girls are um Millennials and they have friends that are undocumented and they do have them in art class or whatever group they have been in and you are going to break a family. So there has to be options and discussions with kids around how we take the 11 or 12 million people and figure out a solution.
I personally don’t think that you’re going to be able to do more for those folks. I just don’t see how that can happen. The government can’t do anything of that magnitude. I can assure you we can’t even barely pick up the trash correctly on Mondays and Fridays (laughter) so I guarantee you we can’t deport so 12 million people. So I think there needs to be a discussion and as um Charlie said from the get-go we believe the borders need to be secure. I absolutely agree with that. There shouldn’t be a blanket amnesty. I agree with that.
Now what’s, what’s some solutions [inaudible 00:47:46]? I believe if they would come forward and actually some of the community, and we all know they’re in our communities so we can’t pretend they’re not. If they felt there was a way to come forward I believe the majority of them would be good, legal citizens. Now how long that path takes surely it doesn’t take 15 years but surely there is a way that we can get them in a system where they are documented, we know where they are. And we would really find out I think that they themselves would turn over those criminal elements that we would because they don’t want them in their community either. But they’re not going to tell you where they are until they feel like there is a way to protect themselves and their families, so I think we have to open the discussion that way.
Um I am not an expert. I can just tell you though from a local level government is not the answer. It needs to be coming from the community up because any time the government controls anything then that’s a wrap.
Jorge: And you’re right. When we go out into the community and [inaudible 00:48:46] there um there’s people who don’t know whether they’ll turn them in and, and, and issues like that, but I … The dialogue has to happen and we can go back to the trust issues.
It is what it is and it is the best we got right, right now and, and enduring the volume is not [inaudible 00:49:03] will, will determine which way it’s going to go but in the meantime that discussion needs to happen, both so we can carry [inaudible 00:49:14] talking about until a comprehensive [inaudible 00:49:17] because they want to address all the aspects from the business side which is what, what I see but when I said … Uh and, and this is all from the illegal migration of people and, and, and we’re not even talking citizenship. We’re just talking visas but start from, from, from the basis, and then in between there you have residency. It doesn’t have to be citizenship so there are many in fact but, but, but the, the dialogue needs to happen.
Boyer: One of the things I found in, in representation is it’s really not collective [inaudible 00:49:52] solution and if it’s the community as a whole and as a Republican, a long-time Republican, offer a solution in giving people options to think about. Let people have the opportunity of [inaudible 00:50:07]. Um you’d be surprise what people can come up with and not necessarily from the top down. That doesn’t necessarily work, but if you can get the community to agree on [inaudible 00:50:19] were just saying residencies and how long that would take I, I think there could be multiple solutions in that.
I think we have to start with getting the … I [inaudible 00:50:28] Charlie with opening, with having this discussion and if we can do this around the community around the state I think folks out here they have really good ideas to help put us on that track.
Maria: I don’t understand why immigration has become this thing you can’t touch. Uh they work for us I think, uh we create their salaries and therefore uh stop analyzing the folks that are here to work, that are here to study. Uh I think work visas are a great idea. I don’t think that people should renew their work visa every two years at a cost of $2,000 because uh I have a … I have a friend from Honduras who came legally and every two years he has to pay about $2,000 and this past renewal the … he … They took almost a year to renew the visa and then he’s up for renewal again. They are penalizing the folks who are doing things legally and encourage … encouraging the illegal, and the criminals have all thie-
Charlie: [I’m going to rephrase 00:51:43] what you just said. We’re incentivizing people to come here illegally because of the cost of a visa of $2,000 [inaudible 00:51:50] it’s easier to avoid the system right now than to work [inaudible 00:51:53].
Maria: That’s what’s-
Charlie: That’s what I just heard.
Maria: That’s what I see a lot. That’s what I see a lot. Those folks who do it correctly don’t get the results that they should.
Jorge: Well it is a huge issue for a corporation that has all these resources and they’re willing to pay for the cost of the visa. It’s not just only money but it’s also the complexity of the process. It … To renew a visa is a … is a monumental-
Maria: It’s huge.
Jorge: Yeah, and then in the meantime your driver’s license expires and so there’s this all sort of things and if you are … If you are here as an expat yeah the company will pay you to go back to your country until you resolve the issue, but if you are like the Honduran lady what is she going to do? Then what happens is the end-result is cheap [inaudible 00:52:33] visa um extra to pay.
Maria: And also if … In court we have people come that are here for three months and the … They cannot drive with their license that’s from Mexico. And they have a visa and they have a passport but the … but the local police department says if you are here after 30 days the Georgia law says you have to have a Georgia driver’s license, and they’re like, “But we can’t get the Georgia driver’s license because we don’t have uh a permanent residency status. We’re here by such-and-such company to do such-and-such project and we live in Mexico,” or wherever they are coming from.
The federal government has to work with the state government who has to work with the local government because we are one country. The United States is one country so the federal law cannot stamp out the state laws and vice-versa. And, and if you … If we give people the opportunity to be able to get a work visa or a study visa legally then you know who’s coming in and out.
Jorge: Just to point on how ridiculous the system is. Uh if you come in here as a tourist, if you want to rent a car there is a couple of rental car agencies that being an immigrant or somebody that is not … from outside the, the U.S. is such a four-letter word that they’re having difficulties to rent a car. And we have had an incentive of coming here to study the market, to open a business here who have called and they have created a scandal at the airport because they cannot even rent a car because the travel agency … I’m sorry, the rental agency for the car is interpreting the law in their own way because of this immigration and driver’s license they don’t want to go there so they take their own … So it’s creating a huge problem in terms of the image that we’re giving to the outside world in terms of recruitment of jobs.
Maria: And it’s hurting the United States.
Jorge: Of course.
Maria: It’s hurting our economy and it’s hurting our future. I mean we are now in, in the global economy. What happens in the Middle East is affecting my pocket. Uh I mean you wake up one day, gas is 3.57. The next day 3.80. What happened? Turn on the news. You’re going to know what happened, all right?
We have to think a little bit … We have to be smarter about things. If I am a farmer in South Georgia and I only need employees who are good at farming why can’t I get Jose from Guatemala that I know that has worked … has worked for me in the past? Get his visa approved. I’m his sponsor. I’m responsible for him while he’s here working in my farm, and when he’s finished he goes back home. In the meantime he pays his taxes because he has a valid Social Security number and for those six months he is here before he leaves I make sure he pays his taxes and he helps me. We know who’s coming in and out. I keep bringing that-
Charlie: [inaudible 00:55:38] I think that’s … At the end of the day that’s what’s [inaudible 00:55:40]. Knowing who is here is what a secure border-
Charlie: [Inaudible 00:55:43]
Maria: It’s not a wall.
Charlie: No and, and that’s … We’ve got to get to that point and so uh I think that’s the one thing as a … as a starting point to move forward. You know that’s what we’ve got to do and it needs a lot more work and a lot- frankly a lot more talk about then we get to the working so … Uh we got about two minutes left. Uh I said I’d have everybody up here [inaudible 00:56:02] uh so any last words of … Anything anyone wants to say that they haven’t gotten off their chest? Please feel free to have a closing remark.
Will: I’d like to close with something. Uh I, I mentioned it early or earlier on whenever I was kind of introducing myself but you know when- Whenever you’re discussing these issues it’s very important to communicate it in the right way. It’s important to cater your message to your target audience. If you’re talking to a young person about immigration reform calling it an … I, I only say this because I have it heard more, more than … more than 10 times y’all. Calling immigrants ‘invaders’ uh say … Using words like that you’re not winning any arguments when you’re talking to uh a young crowd like that, and that doesn’t just go for young people. That goes for women and it goes for minorities. It goes for Hispanics.
Who- whomever you’re talking to it’s very important to cater your message because at the end of the day we need to make sure that we can govern and how do you govern? You have to have power to govern. So you are completely destroying any chances of getting to power to govern. Then you’re all talk and there’s … You, you’re not being effective with your ideas and you’re not implementing your ideas. So I just wanted to end on that note uh that it’s important to, to not destroy any solid support that you can get from you par- from your own party to achieve what’s right.
Charlie: That’s what really matters. Anything-
Will: It doesn’t happen.
Charlie: Again I, I first thank all of you for you know willing to, to have the discussion. I want to say it’s the first time we’ve done this. We’ll get the feedback and see how we’d do it again but I do think this part of the discussion that we need to have that there has to be something constructive uh frankly coming from the center – or the right of center – that there is an alternative. That, that just saying no is not an option. That we maybe at least played out our thoughts on that today. And I thank all of y’all for coming to, to … here. And so for those of you that would like to continue the conversation we’re going to be at La Cazuela which is at 179 West [Burgundy 00:58:00] Street uh in Arnettsville. I am told it’s about three miles from here-
Speaker 1: No, no.
Charlie: So we’re going four miles.
Speaker 1: Half a mile.
Charlie: I have never been there.
Speaker 1: Half a mile.
Charlie: And I thank John Richards from [inaudible 00:58:09] for uh working the camera and getting the facilities arranged for us and then the rest of you that kind of helped and again for, for y’all spending your night with us and, and being up her on the stage and those of you that took an hour or so out of your time uh to come and listen we appreciate it and hopefully uh … Maybe you didn’t hear exactly what you expected but, but we do appreciate it so with that we are going to stand adjourned and we’re going to move over to La Cazuela and hope to uh see and chat with you all there.
Speaker 1: Is that going to be an open discu-