Last month Bell County commissioners took a stand on the immigration crisis. Now a Killeen councilman is asking his colleagues to do the same.
Jonathan Okray, who was elected to a second term in May, drafted a proposed resolution last week and sent it to the mayor, city manager and fellow council members. The resolution calls for the city to refuse any federal directive or request to permit or establish any facilities to house, detain or process immigrants who come to the United States illegally.
The Temple City Council passed a similar resolution Thursday, urging the federal government to enforce border security and opposing unfunded mandates regarding housing of immigrants.
In his proposed resolution, Okray noted a large influx of immigrant children would have a major impact on the Killeen school district — including educational funding, school resources, campus security and health safety.
However, the Killeen area has seen no such influx of immigrants. Nor has the city received any requests for aid, according to city spokeswoman Hilary Shine.
Granted, the Obama administration recently stated that 47,000 unaccompanied child immigrants had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border so far this year — a legitimate concern for border communities.
But now the border crisis seems to be easing.
The Department of Homeland Security reported last week that fewer unaccompanied children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in July than in the previous two months. The number of arrests totaled 5,500 last month, barely half of the totals for May and June. The decline has caused authorities to close some of the temporary shelters set up to handle the surge.
Given that context, the likelihood that Killeen, Temple or Bell County will be called upon to establish their own shelters seems remote — at least for the foreseeable future.
No doubt, Okray is responding to concerns of many in the community. His proposal cites the federal government’s failure “to protect the homeland” and contends “Texas has the right and obligation to protect its citizens.” Both themes are frequently touted by political conservatives in the area.
But aside from drawing the community into a complicated and contentious national issue, what does his proposed resolution achieve?
For one thing, the sentiment behind the resolution is not universally shared by the city’s residents.
Former Killeen Mayor Raul Villaronga, president of League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535, called the proposal “a stupid idea,” especially in a city with such a diverse population made up of immigrants. He urged doing something to provide solutions instead of causing more problems.
And the resolution could cause the city legal problems if council members approve it at their Aug. 19 meeting.
Last month, an Austin-based nonprofit group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development challenging a similar resolution passed by the League City council. The complaint alleges the resolution, and others like it, violates the Fair Housing and Civil Rights acts.
But the biggest question may be whether the resolution is even worth the paper it’s printed on. As Bell County Judge Jon Burrows acknowledged when commissioners passed their resolution last month, the county court has no authority over immigration policy.
Ditto for the Killeen City Council.
The influx of undocumented Central American immigrants — particularly children — is a humanitarian crisis that must be addressed. Solutions must balance border protection and adherence to immigration law with humane treatment of immigrants taken into custody.
If and when the influx becomes an issue for communities here in Bell County, that would be the opportune time to discuss reasonable actions and solutions.
But for now, passing a resolution precluding action by the city is the equivalent of throwing up a roadblock on a highway that has no traffic.