Houston Community News >> Border Group Defends Immigration Views

6/18/2006 Houston -- Amid declarations saying the United States is under attack and claims that undocumented immigrants are draining the country's resources, a Texas group advocating stronger border control said Saturday it isn't anti-immigrant but is against illegal immigration.

"This is not an immigration issue. This is a national security issue. This country is under attack. In fact, we are at war ... for the struggle and the freedom and salvation of this nation," Curtis Collier, president of U.S. Border Watch, said during a rally attended by nearly 100 people. Collier criticized U.S. senators who passed a bill last month that would provide a path to citizenship for many of the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

The House has passed a bill that focuses on border enforcement and doesn't provide any provisions for citizenship or temporary worker status. A compromise between the two bills has not been reached. "It is not prejudice to have border security," said David Kleimann, a former state senate candidate from Willis. "There's nothing wrong with that. Every country has it."

As Kleimann spoke, one of U.S. Border Watch's members stood holding a sign that read, "Texas Is Not A Mexican Colony." Ralliers also compared illegal immigrants to "foot soldiers" who are invading the country and suggested many of them smuggle drugs when they come into the country. Such claims are why groups like U.S. Border Watch and the Minutemen have been called anti-immigrant, racist and reactionary by critics. Jone Franco, a Montgomery County resident who is also a member of the Minuteman group, said such criticism is undeserved. U.S. Border Watch members stressed they support legal immigration and are not racist.

"This has nothing to do with being racist and you guys know it. This has to do with anybody from any country in this world coming here illegally," said Franco, who said her husband immigrated to the United States from Mexico legally. People at the rally about 45 miles north of Houston loudly cheered when one speaker said illegal immigrants should not receive government assistance and that their U.S.-born children should not be granted citizenship.

Kleimann also suggested sending illegal immigrants in Texas prisons to their home countries would free up money in the state budget, rendering a recently approved school finance package unnecessary. Carrie West, 30, who attended the rally with her two children, said she doesn't want people to misunderstand the group and believe it is racist.

"I have no hatred toward any one of any other nationality or race. My children are half black. But I love my country. I love what my country stands for. My country is about freedom and I don't want that freedom to be drowned out," she said.

(Contributed by AP)