Sheriff Garcia: Great challenges, great leaders
By Sheriff Adrian Garcia | June 16, 2013 | Updated: June 16, 2013 10:51pm
Photo By Harris County Sheriff Office
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia (second from left) at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 11, 2013, during President Barack Obama’s speech about immigration reform in the East Room. Photo: Harris County Sheriff Office
Photo: Mayra Beltran, Houston Chronicle
I was honored to join President Obama a few days ago to hear, along with leaders from across the country, the progress being made toward common sense immigration reform. I have been an advocate of fixing our broken immigration system because otherwise it will continue to hamper the economy and hinder public safety as businesses and workers remain underground and crime victims fear the police.
On stage at the White House, I was overwhelmed by the personal ironies of the moment. My older brothers and sister were brought to this country permanently by a father who had been a "bracero" (guest worker) in the 1940s in California so he could earn enough money to start a family back home in Mexico.
My father had waited in line to get permission to re-enter the United States with that family. The first thing he did after crossing the international bridge into Texas was stop his station wagon and have everyone get out and kneel on the side of the road for a prayer – a prayer that one of my big brothers says sounded like our national anthem. He recalls my dad saying, "Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to come to this great country! We will work hard and give everything back to this country that it can possibly give us, and we will be good citizens and obey the laws. Amen!"
Soon afterward, I was born in Houston. And eventually I would become the leader of the third largest sheriff’s office in the country. For me, a product of an immigrant family that did its share of back-breaking work, the experience of being a part of the discussion about immigration at the White House was humbling, to say the least.
By making improvements in several areas, the reforms proposed by the president and a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight address the American reality that is quite different from the one my father and mother faced several decades ago.
Millions of people who entered the greatest nation in the world without permission or stayed past their visa expiration date have become an indispensable segment of our society, paying more in taxes than the value of any services they receive and providing the momentum for economic prosperity. Reform would empower the children who were brought here by caring parents in search of opportunity for the next generation. As students, many of these so-called DREAMers are demonstrating a brilliance that would serve our country well.
Reform would make an additional $6 billion investment in border security – a real public safety commitment.
The bill would also have the government work with the business community to strengthen the computerized employment verification system known as "E-Verify" as well as provide again for an effective guest worker program.
The bill would install a stringent process for those who wish to become citizens of this great country after coming here without documentation. President Obama did caution that the process would not be fast or easy – nor should it be.
I applaud the bipartisan leadership that has gotten us to this point. Although it has been said that "politics makes strange bedfellows," I would rather say that we are witnessing proof that great leaders emerge in times of great challenges without regard to party lines.
President Reagan was such a leader on this issue, as was President George W. Bush. And so I say to Congress: Be like Reagan, be like Bush, be like Obama, and support common-sense reform.
Adrian Garcia is sheriff of Harris County.