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Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke Talks DACA, Immigration at Town Hall Meeting

Rep. Beto O'Rourke


In the midst of a Senate vote to end the government shutdown, Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke held a town hall meeting in El Paso to talk with his constituency.

O’Rourke was unable to personally attend due to the shutdown, which ended during the meeting.  Instead, he livestreamed from Washington D.C., fielding questions from residents about issues mostly focusing on immigration, Dreamers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“My position, and I feel like El Paso’s position, has to be that we want a clean Dream Act,” O’Rourke said. “That means ensuring that those 800,000 Dreamers, at least 200,000 of which live in the state of Texas, many thousands in El Paso, are able to continue to thrive and contribute to the success of our communities. Really important point, this is not just about what’s good for Dreamers and their families. It’s about what’s good for the United States of America and for the state of Texas.”

O’Rourke said President Trump’s plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border would not help boost security.

“We do not want a wall,” O’Rourke said. “So whether it’s Trump talking about it or Schumer talking about it, what matters is what we say when we’re talking about it and we will not trade those things that will hurt our community like walls or militarization in exchange for doing the right thing for the country, which is ensuring that those Dreamers can stay here.”

Retired Vietnam veteran William Hart, Jr. is a regular at O’Rourke’s meetings. Hart has attended nearly all of the representative’s town halls since being elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2014 and 2016.

“If we’ve had 89 of these town hall meetings, Bill Hart has been to at least 85 of them if not more and so glad to see you here and grateful that you’re at the microphone, looking forward to what you have to say,” O’Rourke said.

Hart said he dislikes the idea of throwing Dreamers out of the country.

“It would not only be absurd, it would not only be harmful to them, it would be harmful to the country,” Hart said. “A lot of them are doing jobs, paying taxes, they’re going to our universities, and that means they’re learning to do things better, and of course a lot of them are serving in our military defending this country.”

Hart said those Dreamers who serve in the military should be given an expedited path to citizenship. He said one of things he likes about Representative O’Rourke is his willingness for bipartisanship.

“He really doesn’t care that much if they’re Republicans or Democrats, he’s focused on results,” Hart said. ”I think that’s quite good, and I think he needs to coordinate with them to get legislation that would protect them, and that would give them a reasonable path to citizenship.”

Retirees like Hart aren’t the only ones who attend O’Rourke’s town halls. Yesenia Acosta is a member of student government at the David L. Carrasco Job Corps Center, a career training program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Acosta and her classmates attend meetings to be more civically engaged.

“This is why we come to these meetings. To be aware of what’s going on outside of the world, not just in school. So every student knows what’s going on,” Acosta said.

Acosta said she’s interested in learning more about immigration issues.

“That’s a big one for me. And when one man came up and talked about student education such as science, I’m very into science and that’s what I’m majoring in so that was very important to me,” Acosta said.

As for Hart, he said he thinks O’Rourke has done a good job in Congress and would be a positive influence in the Senate.

“I think there are too many people in both houses of Congress who don’t belong there for ethical reasons or for other reason,” Hart said. “He doesn’t have that problem. He doesn’t have any baggage. He keeps his word. No excuses good, bad or otherwise. Results. He keeps his word, and that’s the main reason why I’m definitely backing him for the United State Senate.”

O’Rourke is challenging for Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat. To advance to November’s general election, O’Rourke must first defeat two other Democratic candidates, Sema Hernandez and Edward Kimbrough, in the Texas primary on March 6.

Michael Hernandez was a multimedia reporter for KRWG Public Media from late 2017 through early 2020. He continues to appear on KRWG-TV from time to time on our popular "EnviroMinute" segments, which feature conservation and citizen science issues in the region.