LEAGUE CITY — Last week’s City Council vote on a resolution to turn away requests from federal authorities for help in housing undocumented immigrants wasn’t a first battle in the city involving illegal immigration.

It is just the latest chapter and likely won’t be the last.


Citywide roundup

In the early-morning hours of Jan. 19, 2006 League City police officers joined with officers of Immigrations and Customs Enforcements in a citywide sweep of suspected undocumented immigrants. The focus of the sweep wasn’t to curb the daily collection of day laborers on street corners throughout the city.

Police were seeking out Rigoberto Sanchez, who was wanted in connection to a 2002 auto accident that killed four people. Police also wanted to find suspects as part of a pair of sexual assault investigations.

On that day 62 people, most confirmed to be in the country illegally, were rounded up. By the end of the day all but two were released with only a promise that if they were in the country illegally they would return for a court hearing.

Those not in the country illegally were given apologies and sent on their way.

The raid didn’t result in the arrests of the suspects sought, but two men were taken by Immigration because one had a warrant for an assault charge. The other had an extensive criminal history in California, officials said.


Uneasy partnership

Publicly, local authorities did not criticize the roundup, but privately police and city officials blasted the federal government’s handling of the operation. That’s because instead of rounding up dangerous criminals as local officials were promised by federal authorities, dozens of residents — legally in the country or not — were left in town and on city streets for city officials to deal with.

When questioned after the roundup why those found to be in the country illegally were not also taken into custody, federal officials were blunt.

Louisa Deason, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said only those with outstanding warrants or those determined to be a threat to the community would be taken into custody.

“It’s a matter of setting a priority because we simply do not have enough beds to take them all into custody,” Deason said. ”We are looking for those with a warrant of deportation sex offenders or (those who) pose a threat to the community. Those are the ones we are interested in.”

Eight years later, League City is once again in the center of the illegal immigration debate. Local officials again complain that the federal government isn’t doing enough.

This time, though, city officials aren’t speaking in hushed tones behind closed doors or off the record.


Day laborer crackdown

League City’s relationship with undocumented immigrants has been one of resistance, uneasy acceptance and often indifference.

The collection of day laborers in front of convenience stores and on street corners was one of the unspoken problems in the city driven mostly because of the city’s housing boom of the early 2000s. City officials and particularly contractors who hired them were well aware that most were in the country illegally.

Still, the labor was in general cheaper and required no paperwork. Chances are that many of the same people who voiced their support for the resolution are living in houses that in part were constructed by workers in the country illegally.

Three years after the citywide roundup, the city tried to do what it could about what many claimed was a problem and public safety risk.

In 2009 then Police Chief Mike Jez directed the city’s police officers to monitor day laborer gathering spots and issue warnings or citations or arrest laborers soliciting work.

The policy won cheers from many residents and had general support on City Council. It drew condemnations from LULAC and other civil rights groups.


Lawsuit settled

In 2011 a group of day laborers, with the help of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, sued the city and won an initial federal court decision.

Instead of appealing, the city last summer settled the lawsuit for $357,000.

In 2014, League City is once again wrestling with the issues of illegal immigration. Even those backing the resolution that won overwhelming support from City Council last week agree that it should be the federal government’s job to manage the situation.


Feds ‘bungled’ latest crisis

Councilwoman Heidi Thiess, who authored the resolution and was its biggest champion, argues that the federal government has “bungled” the situation.

She said the growing frustration with the federal government’s handling of the situation and what she considers a lack of transparency — she referred to it as secrecy — is “disturbing,” and “shocking.”

The resolution, which many legal experts agree likely won’t hold up to any legal challenge, was more of a message sender than anything, she said last week before the issues was voted on by council.

Thiess’ frustration and that of the majority of council who backed her is evident.

She accuses federal authorities too of being “lawless,” in handling the most recent crisis as thousands of undocumented immigrants, mostly from Central America, are crossing into the United States each day.

“The (federal) government is not asking for anyone’s permission, no one gets a hearing on whether or not they want these (housing) centers in their communities,” Thiess said before the resolution passed. “They are bypassing state authorities and municipal authorities and they are going straight into communities without getting public input (and) without getting public feedback.”

Something, she insists, needs to be done so that local governments resources aren’t “overwhelmed.”


Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(19) comments

Marc Edelman

this latest round of xenophobia is just more scare mongering and nonsense, I think mayor ad council should try to focus the real issues of league city.

Carlos Ponce

medelman2k, it's not xenophobia, but a reality check.

PD Hyatt

I for one applaud LC for trying to get our Federal government off of their lazy BUTTS and secure our borders and start enforcing the laws on our books.... The left and most of the media seem to approve of these illegals who are invading our nation and overwhelming our resources. Why does the left and the media seem to care about these children from other nations so much when they approve of the slaughtering of the innocent upon the altar of convenience called "Choice".... I just wish more of our nation had the guts that LC has shown on this issue and other issues that have come before them like prayer....

Andy Aycoth

medelman2k what are some real issues you refer too ? Don't say traffic or crime, they do more than most cities on these issues.

George Croix

Do you HAVE to hate people to not want them to break into your country illegally, and use up resources that your own citizens need?
That's a 'progressive' canard, and just more race baiting.
That's French for a flat out lie.
There it is...

Chris Mallios

Let’s talk infrastructure in the old parts of town, let’s talk public transportation for our growing city, let’s talk about managing the growth of our town. I could go on and on. A gun resolution and a “ban the children” resolution does NOTHING FOR OUR CITY! IT is all playing to the political base. One needs to open their eyes to see the total view. By challenging the Feds they may get exactly what they do not want. Personal political gain is ALL this is about. Real Christians would have followed the good book. Some of the very same individuals that voted against the good book ran on Christian values. We will fight for prayer but not for the children the Lord asks us to protect. Do you really think that this resolution would have been brought up if there was ANY possibility of it being voted down ?

Lars Faltskog

Response to paul-hyatt posted at 8:23 am on Sun, Jul 13, 2014:

Well, there's another way of looking at it. Great concern for a handful of embryonic life forms who you can't yet see cry and can't yet see walking through a strange town is way different than this current crisis.

Thousands of hungry and scared children across to our borders deem more immediate concern than a young woman perhaps with the support of her mother in a doctor's office in the process of lawful termination of a pregnancy. They have already made their decision, and it's one less child for you and I to worry about feeding and educating. It's not really hard to see the difference. And, I do think you see the difference, but perhaps you don't like seeing non-white non-Spanish speaking children in your midst.

Carlos Ponce

I'll never understand the Liberal mind. "[N]on-white non-Spanish speaking children" sounds VERY racist to me. Let's see, African American children are "non-white non-Spanish speaking children" Are you talking about them? Also Asian children are "non-white non-Spanish speaking children. I see children, why do you differentiate by color and the language they speak. Why do you pick on them sverige?
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. "

Lars Faltskog

As the saying goes: "It is what it is", carlosjponce. If these thousands of refugee children were white Europeans, there would be much less hoopla about their being here. Does that help you understand "the liberal mind" a little better?

Carlos Ponce

No sverige, it does not. Your phrase "non-white non-Spanish speaking children" makes no sense in light of the matter at hand nor of the discussion in these forums. It speaks of what is going on in your mind. And it is not pleasant. Conservatives see humans. You see people with differences and you accentuate those differences.
"We shouldn't care about the length of His hair
Of the color of His skin
Don't worry about what shows from without
But the love that lives within
Everything is beautiful in it's own way
Like a starry summer night
Or a snow covered winter's day
And everybody's beautiful in their own way
Under God's Heaven
The world's gonna find a way"

Lars Faltskog

Well, carlos....to help clarify. I was trying to say that folks are much more "OK" with refugees from Europe (white) than non-white Central Americans. The "humans" you conservatives see, as you say it, are not unlike the Pilgrims who came here from Europe.

Don't you think the Native Americans had some misgivings about foreigners setting foot on land that was 1st of the Native American inhabitant(s)? Well, their misgivings apparently were overcame by their majority. They welcomed the Europeans....UNlike what we see today with this situation.

Carlos Ponce

sverige, why do Liberals ALWAYS drag race and ethnicity into the equation. Have you been to the border? Even if you haven't talked to the Border Patrol agents personally like I have you can catch them being interviewed on the news. If you haven't noticed they are mostly Hispanic. The Border Patrol agents interviewed want the children sent home.
And did you see the video of the African Americans calling President Obama the WORST President ever? Are they racist too?

Kevin Lang

I think perhaps a better counterpoint for sverige1 to use would be something along the lines of: When you look at the way our society takes care of the children that "survived" the "choice" questions, perhaps that weighs into the decisions of these women that know they won't be able to take care of the children.

lois Jones

I am amazed that my fellow social conservatives embrace life in the womb but yet turn their backs on children who are alive and out of the womb. We must find a way to deal with this humanitarian crisis. Too often we choose to "Police" people of color putting them on the defensive. If these children were white coming in droves from South Africa, Germany or Britain, I wonder if our response would be the same. Its no wonder some people of color are screaming: "America: , you are no different than your racist ancestors, you just don't wear the white robes anymore. There has got to a better response to this issue.

Carlos Ponce

Who is turning their backs on these children? Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Meghan Kelly and all the Conservative Forum subscribers want what is BEST for these children, that is take care of their immediate needs but return them to their patria (homeland). Even Father Snyder with Catholic Charities has said this is best. Race and the color of their skin has NOTHING to do with it. Have you seen the Border Patrol Agents interviewed who also want the children returned to their countries? Most of them are Hispanic. Do you call them racist too? I will not question your claim as a "social conservative" but crying racism makes you sound very liberal.

George Croix

It must be a good response to hysterically cry racism.
And even better to do it hidden behind Mommy's internet skirt...
That's not what my 'fellow social conservatives' do.
Must be somebody else's....


Freedom, I agree with you to a point, there is a better way to deal with this situation. Obama does not want to do what is better, because it would lose the 2016 election for Hillary! First we need to take off the blinders that some people are trying to hang on us. It is not just these kids which are the primary issue here. It is like Senator John McCain said about Obama's inept handling of this whole situation. He keeps talking about securing the border is not a permanent solution. The guy is in over his head!
Securing the border ought to be the FIRST STEP you do in order to stop the endless flow of illegals, kids, along with MS-13 gang members, criminals, or maybe terrorists from coming over the border while dealing with who is already here. Why would congress appropriate money for Obama and the Democrats to waste, and then run up the debt again next year and the next and the next, because of an OPEN BORDER? Who is going to pay for all that. Obama needs to do his job and quit his political posturing! This is not a white, black, Hispanic issue! Please don't try to make it one! Why are the Canadians being shipped back home then? It is easy to drop the RACE CARD, and call it racial, when it is not!
We need a policy which is fair to all and implement it in a like manner, and we should already have one by now! We don't need this "DREAM SUGGA" DOCTRINE, which Obama stuck out there which caused this mess in the first place! Now he wants to do what he is an expert at, and that is to BLAME SOMEBODY else for his inefficiency and failures!
We cannot afford to take every kid, gang member, terrorist or criminal in South America in a constant flow crossing our borders! That is what is going to happen unless somebody STOPS IT and set up a situation where they will seek other options! The "DREAM SUGGA" DOCTRINE is not worth a flip! It was ill-thought out and it had no foundation setup in order for it to work! It was done to appease Hispanic voters, for their support in Obama's second run for office! Yes, It was a political payoff!
Pointing fingers is not the way either! Those of us who are not in support of Obama's doomed policies can say the same thing in reverse about you, "WE ARE AMAZED THAT OUR FELLOW SOCIAL CONCERVATIVES EMBRACE CHILDREN OUT OF THE WOMB, BUT TURN THEIR BACKS ON KIDS WHO ARE STILL IN THE WOMB by their support of ABORTION! Now sir/mam.....what did that just accomplish? It is simple! You have two sides who disagree on how our government is functioning! We're are not apologizing. Somebody need to tell Obama to secure the border, and get a Comprehensive Immigration Policy, then implement it. Then get back with us. Until that is done, we are not going to drink what they are trying to serve us. So say what you want, it does not phase me in the least! I'm sending to much money to the mission fields in South America now to even hear the hate!
PS Just heard where a felon from South America, who has been deported FOUR TIMES sneaked back in the country in the last 30 days with all these kids, and ASSAULTED a nine year old girl in SPRING TEXAS right down the street from Houston! He broke in her room where she was asleep, assaulted her, and stole her underwear after he finished!
To this, I say get ready, because a lot more of it is on the way!

Andy Aycoth

Wow, what lengthy diatribes. I am thinking we have some retired folks posting here.

George Croix

It takes fewer lines to say nothing.

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