Our borders are national and therefore immigration law and enforcement is primarily a federal responsibility. Individual states as the closest neighbors along the US border have special interests of their own. Passage of recent Arizona laws have brought attention to a continuing array of unproductive proposed resolutions.
Texas is not likely to copycat Arizona, or any other border state, at least according to Governor Rick Perry who said “ I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas.” This position upholds the state’s long-held tradition of rejecting harsh anti-immigrant policies. “Texas has a rich history with Mexico, our largest trading partner, and we share more than 1,200 miles of border, more than any other state,” Perry said recently. (1)
Border Security a priority for Texas
Governor Perry emphasizes border security as a primary focus of his leadership. Border security efforts have been robust in the past 15 years – fortification of the U.S.-Mexico border aimed at stemming illegal entry has included a 500 percent increase in Border Patrol equipped with improved mobility, communications and technology. Current efforts for the Texas border are already underway to implement the recommendation of the Government Accountability Office that 5,000 new officers are needed, in addition to $5 billion in infrastructure and technology to secure the ports of entry. Voices from the border areas are also recommending improved southbound inspection facilities, increased southbound inspection personnel, and life-saving interoperable communications as essential aspects of security.(2) “As the debate on immigration reform intensifies, the focus must remain on border security and the federal government’s failure to adequately protect our borders. Securing our border is a federal responsibility, but it is a Texas problem, and it must be addressed before comprehensive immigration reform is discussed.”(3)
In related actions this spring, Phase 1 of the Spillover Violence Contingency Plan was initiated. At the governor’s direction, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), in coordination with local and federal law enforcement along the Texas-Mexico border, has implemented critical elements of the state’s spillover violence contingency plan. These steps include increased surveillance of border activity by state and local law enforcement, the Texas Border Security Operations Center, and the Joint Operational and Intelligence Centers to ensure the timely sharing of intelligence information; increased ground, air and maritime patrol presence; and increased intensity of day and night DPS helicopter patrol operations along the Rio Grande River, as well as National Guard helicopters to support aviation missions. Additional resources ready for rapid deployment have been placed on standby, including DPS SWAT Teams and Trooper Strike Teams, as well as Ranger Recon Teams prepared to reposition based on threat.(4)
Time for Immigration Reform
This is not a time for security efforts alone. We have to speak about all the issues that impact security and reform. There are two overwhelming consensus ideas regarding immigration – 1. the current U.S. immigration system is broken and 2. the jurisdiction for cultural, economic and law enforcement interests are shared formally and informally between the state and federal authorities.
What is meant by “broken”?
- Our immigration system cannot adequately tell us who is here, for how long and why.
- Processes for allowing temporary workers to come and go in and out of the US are inadequate and insecure.
- Families, even those with the best of intentions, bear undue hardship because of inconsistencies in law and policy.
- The system has no dependable set of incentives. Good behavior and dutiful attention are not necessarily rewarded. Deception and noncompliance are not necessarily punished.
- Even the legal process for applying for entry, entering the US and obtaining citizenship is burdensome, expensive, risky and convoluted. People seeking to navigate the system in good faith can be easily manipulated by unscrupulous actors.
Unlawful acts are not all equal
Like all other aspects of US law, the application of justice in immigration means that there are levels of distinctions for various infractions of the law. As is commonly invoked – whether talking about traffic violations or community crimes - “ let the punishment fit the crime.” Likewise, a foundation of past US immigration law has been that immigration violations in and of themselves are not necessarily criminal acts. Coming and living (even illegally) in the US historically has not been treated as equal to a crime that damages, property or persons. In matters of migration, like in other areas of the law, multiple distinctions of civil and criminal violations are maintained. Visa overstays for example, are not prosecuted in the same way as smuggling violations. Claiming “one punishment for all” is not as tenable in policy as it is in rhetoric.
Piecemeal solutions for border issues have been proposed, at both federal and state levels, but often they are either only temporary fixes or substantially inadequate. These efforts, sometimes encompassing elements of merit, still are found wanting – shutting off the border, building a fence, training local law enforcement as immigration officers (“287.g”) , military installation, technology have still resulted in inadequate changes to handle immigration for work and security adequately. States, like Texas, that share a border with Mexico have cultural, economic and law enforcement interests that are often expressed in lawful and productive relationships.
The Arizona law is a misdirected attempt at a partial fix. It will require local and state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally, making it a crime for them to lack registration documents. The law also makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally. “I fully recognize and support a state’s right and obligation to protect its citizens, but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas,” Perry said in a written statement.”For example, some aspects of the law turn law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe.” (5) Progress along the Texas border is attributed to the focus on law enforcement infrastructure, security, articulation of law enforcement jurisdiction , vulnerabilities of southbound and northbound border traffic , and any shift away from these strategic and hard won balances would certainly promote chaos, distrust and cross-agency confusion.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
It is entirely possible to protect our borders while establishing a viable, humane, and realistic immigration system, one that is consistent with our American values and increases national security while protecting the livelihood of Americans. Given the frustration felt by many state efforts, support comprehensive immigration reform legislation is building. Most discussions include the following elements:
- Border enforcement and protection initiatives that are consistent with humanitarian values while allowing the authorities to enforce the law and implement American immigration policy;
- Reforms in our family-based immigration system that reduce the waiting time for separated families to be safely reunited and maintain the constitutionally guaranteed rights of birthright citizenship and the ability of immigrants to earn naturalization;
- An opportunity for all immigrant workers and their families already in the U.S. to come out of the shadows and pursue the option of an earned path towards permanent legal status and citizenship upon satisfaction of specific criteria;
- A viable guest worker program that creates legal avenues for workers and their families to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights and due process fully protected and provides an option for workers to gain permanent status independent of an employer sponsor; and
- A framework to examine and ascertain solutions to the root causes of migration, such as economic disparities between sending and receiving nations.
Immigration is a defining feature of America’s history and will continue to be an important issue for America’s future but we need changes to our immigration system to address numerous problems. Many immigrants have applied legitimately for the right to live in this country with their family members, but must wait for many years for final approval due to backlogs in the system. Undocumented children are raised here but are unable to attend college or work legally. Individuals are risking their lives and literally dying to come to the United States. Families face inhumane waits of up to twenty years to lawfully reunify with family members. We have a growing black market characterized by widespread use of false documents, increasingly violent smuggling cartels, and exploitation of undocumented workers.
What needs to be fixed?
A comprehensive approach to immigration reform is required to address the complex and outmoded immigration system that currently exists. There are an inadequate number of visas for employers to hire the foreign workers necessary for jobs that they cannot find native-born Americans to fill. The shortage of legal, documented agricultural and other workers in Texas and the U.S. has become a growing crisis. There is discussion regarding proposed legislation to provide short-term relief for this labor shortage through a one-time earned adjustment of status, or increasing the number of visas allowed from Mexico; and longer-term relief through major reform of the H-2A guest worker program. Although a challenging task, the effective implementation of a 2 stage earned legal status program is a viable adjustment that would create an incentive for employer accountability. With an eye for the national security interest of the U.S, policy makers stress that it is vital to know who is working in food production and to have an effective means of monitoring these essential workers, and this legislation potentially provides that capability.
Current law has created numerous barriers for legitimate refugees abroad and seekers of asylum in the U.S. to receive the protection they deserve. Additionally, approximately eleven million “undocumented” immigrants currently live in the United States,(6) and more than three million U.S. citizen children live in families headed by an undocumented immigrant.(7)
Because many immigrants do not currently have a means by which to receive lawful status in the United States, they go undetected by living in the shadows. If they could apply for current lawful status, they would be much more likely to come forward, and the government could better target the small number of potential criminals and terrorists. There is no need to condone any violations of the law, such as living in the United States illegally, but to recognize that our complex and inadequate immigration system has made it nearly impossible for many of the hard-working people that our country needs, to enter or remain in the country legally and/or reunite with family members.
(1) Texas Gov: Arizona Immigration Law ‘Not Right’ for Texas, Associated Press , April 29, 2010.
(2) Testimony of Monica Weisberg-Stewart Chairman of the Texas Border Coalition Committee on Immigration and Land Ports of Entry Before the Joint Meeting of the Texas House Committee on Border and Intergovernmental Affairs and the Texas House Committee on Public Safety April 29, 2010.
(3) Texas Gov: Arizona Immigration Law ‘Not Right’ for Texas, Associated Press , April 29, 2010.
(4) Gov. Perry Orders Activation of 1st Phase, Spillover Violence Contingency Plan, March 16 2010
(5) Texas Gov: Arizona Immigration Law ‘Not Right’ for Texas, Associated Press, April 29, 2010.
(6) http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/44.pdf, stating that as of March 2005, there were nearly 11 million undocumented individuals in the U.S.
Refers to immigrants (legal and undocumented) in many laws
Undocumented Immigrants or Illegal Aliens – (2 categories)
EWI (Entries Without Inspection) – crossed the border illegally
Overstays – came in legally, but did not leave when their visa expired (25-40% of those undocumented)
Legal Immigrants –
Some are permanent of long term statuses – they can reside in the U.S. indefinitely as long as they do not commit a crime. (AKA – “lawful permanent residents” or “refugees” or “asylees”)
Some are temporary or transitional statuses – they can be indefinite in length (the spouse, child or fiancé of a U.S. citizen) or one getting renewal at set intervals.
An alien legally in the U.S. for some specific purpose for a set period of time (ex: students, tourists, diplomats, guest workers). There are 70 nonimmigrant visa categories.
Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
(Formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Services – INS)
A division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Granted to immigrants who have been approved to live in the U.S. permanently (lawful permanent residents)
Who’s eligible for citizenship?
- Persons who have been lawful permanent residents (green card holders) for five years.
- Persons who have been lawful permanent residents for three years, have been married to a U.S. citizen for those three years, and continue to be married to that U.S. citizen.
- Persons who are lawful permanent resident children of U. S. citizen parents.
- Persons who have a qualifying military service.
- Persons under the age of 18 may automatically become citizens when their parents are naturalized.
- Any person born in the U. S. (minus some exceptions regarding diplomats.)
What are the penalties for violating immigration laws?
Section 274 felonies under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, INA 274A(a)(1)(A):
A person (including a group of persons, business, organization, or local government) commits a federal felony when she or he:
- Assists an alien s/he should reasonable know is illegally in the U.S. or who lacks employment authorization, by transporting, sheltering, or assisting him or her to obtain employment, or
- Encourages that alien to remain in the U.S. by referring him or her to an employer or agent for an employer in any way, or knowingly assists illegal aliens due to personal convictions.
Penalties upon conviction include:
- Criminal fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of vehicles and real property used to commit the crime. Anyone employing or contracting with an illegal alien without verifying his or her work authorization status is guilty of a misdemeanor.
- Aliens and employers violating immigration laws are subject to arrest, detention, and seizure of their vehicles or property.
Showing Hospitality to the Least of These; Leigh Jackson; 2004; Christian Life Commission (BGCT)
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Few issues have the ability to divide us in such an intense manner as an immigration debate. We have watched as groups have taken to the streets protesting or supporting the recent Arizona Immigration Laws. We have watched as groups have gathered to advocate or oppose Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation. Then we watched as commentators and observers berated either the protestors or the advocates as criminals and the ruin of this great nation.
In our “sound-byte” culture we fall back on slogans attempting to scale down the debate to one of its many, infinitely complex features. The decisions that will be made in our nation in the coming months will have both present and far-reaching consequences economically, politically, and culturally in ways that we cannot possibly understand fully. In light of this it behooves each one of us to gain a more complete understanding of what the issues are and what is being said about them.
There are three major themes that we as Americans use as filters for understanding the immigration debate.
America’s Changing Face – Is there too much difference?
This approach sees immigration as a looming identity crisis. At the present rate of immigration there are too many differences to assimilate. This increasing diversity threatens to break the bonds of unity—the common ideals of language and democracy—that define our political institution. Also, concerns over terrorism and national security concerns create uncertainty about newcomers. Immigration should be slowed to allow time for immigrants to assimilate into American culture.
There are valid cultural concerns here, but there are tradeoffs. Although it is true that many first-generation immigrants cling to their home countries, it is also true that their children (who are US citizens) continue to adopt America’s eclectic culture and keep our country vibrant and adaptable. America of all nations is the world leader in assimilation, especially for second and third generations, who even while expressing cultural identity, are leading proponents and defenders of the American Dream.
A Nation of Immigrants – Remembering America’s Heritage
In this view, virtually open immigration has been the backbone of America’s strength. Combining diverse cultures yields a uniquely strong and rich society and, overall, immigrants offer far more to American society than they take from it. Especially in a new global neighborhood, immigration is essential to a prosperous future and America must continue to welcome newcomers despite the costs and challenges. The American education system gives access to immigrants towards highly successful and productive lives; this will continue to generate innovation and leadership of the global future.
This too has its drawbacks. Without limits, the lifeboat, which is America, could capsize drowning us all. Caring for and educating all of these newcomers costs American taxpayers.
“Just showing up” was all it took in the not so distant American past; this is no longer a viable method of accepting newcomers. Newcomers that enter by a legal method are always preferred, but current limits on certain classes of visas, which allow for valid workers, prohibits many willing workers from entering and working legally and temporarily in the US.(1)
A Matter of Priorities – Putting Economics First
This final paradigm argues that immigrants strain the public purse, compete for jobs, and exceed our carrying capacity. In this view, the nation would benefit economically by sending certain classes of immigrants out of the country, severely restricting the number of newcomers, and by looking more closely at how their arrival affects the well-being of those who are already here. Americans in low-wage jobs suffer and can possibly even lose their jobs to those who would be willing to work for less.
This causes immediate problems, however, in that immigrants begin to get blamed for problems they do not cause, and it does not recognize that immigrants are a critical part of our economy working jobs that many established Americans would refuse to work. What may seem like an economic solution now, however, may carry the seeds of hardship as the aging US workforce is faced with low replacement figures. Younger workers are not replacing the current workforce; as the baby-boomers age out (77 million are expected to retire by 2030), the US needs an infusion of younger workers to sustain our economy.(2)
For most of us, we can identify with all these themes in some way, but not necessarily as a consensus. These ideas about immigration create tension within us not just among us. Biblical and Christian ideas can also create tension when thinking about immigration. When asked about our citizenship today, most of us would answer with great pride, that we are citizens of the United States of America. We also claim that as believers our primary citizenship is that of the Kingdom of God, and as such we are a people set apart. Through the eyes of Christian calling and when we are on mission, we see each other as more than American, Chinese, Indian, or Mexican, for we are all created in the image of God and God sent his Son to reconcile all of us to Himself regardless of what passport we hold.
There is no denying that the Biblical story is filled with migration. Throughout Israel’s history from her slavery in Egypt to her exile in Babylon, God’s chosen people were strangers in a foreign land, much like we are today, for it is not this world to which we belong. In Leviticus 19:33,34 through Moses, God is laying out His laws for holiness and justice, and instructs the people, “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would a fellow Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the lord your God.”
Attempting to sum up an appropriate Christian response to the issues raised by immigration through a quick reference to scripture may seem yet another extension of ‘sound-byte’ culture, but as believers, our mandate is not ultimately political, economic, or cultural.
Should we view justice merely as an issue of legality? Is justice either fairness or fair process, or is reconciliation its end? Is justice linked to our treatment of the “lesser of these”? These are valid and difficult questions whose answers have practical consequences. If we strive to unite families that have been torn apart due to immigration law we definitely would be fulfilling our call to the “ministry of reconciliation”, but would handing out visas to family members over those who have made good faith attempts to enter the country legally be fair process? Can we say that accommodating people who broke the law for whatever reason is justice, or should our concern lie merely with defending the Biblical call to look after the orphans, widows and aliens in our midst?
These are all questions with which we must wrestle. The debate is complex, vitally important, and has now become urgent.
(2) Welcoming The Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate, Matthew Sorens and Jenny Hwang, pgs. 118-119
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The United States is a country of new beginnings. For hundreds of years, America has been defined as a place of refuge for the persecuted, a nation of immigrants. But now, as Americans, we must learn to reconcile the conflicts between our history, our current economic realities, and the need to protect the interests of American citizens.
The History of Immigration in the U.S.
Throughout American history, immigration has spawned much debate. In colonial America, Ben Franklin worried that an influx of German immigrants would squash the predominant British culture. During the mid to late 1800s, some Americans viewed the Irish as drunkard and lazy, and later, believed that Italians, Poles, and Russian Jews would not be able to assimilate to American culture.
By the end of the 19th century, Congress passed the first immigrant exclusion laws, restricting first criminals and prostitutes, and soon after, Japanese, Chinese and other Asian immigrants as well. Regardless of the new laws, however, immigration reached a record high of 1.3 million people in 1907.
In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act amendments that ended quotas, and for the first time, initiated the concept of family-sponsored immigration.
In 1987, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform Control Act (IRCA). Among other provisions, the IRCA authorized two programs to identify and legalize illegal or undocumented immigrants who could document both entry into the United States prior to January 1, 1982, and “continued physical presence” in the U.S. since the passage of IRCA. Also included in the IRCA was a prohibition on employers on the hiring of undocumented workers and tough enforcement measures, including sanctions, if they did; however, for the last 20 years, these sanctions have not been fully enforced.(1)
The immigration system of laws set up 20 years ago have not been consistently enforced, the bureaucracy of INS has not functioned efficiently or effectively and the rules of immigration themselves are sometimes capricious and illogical. Along with this level of dysfunction, both entry and status violations are misdemeanors as are the illegal actions of employers resulting in a confusion regarding penalty in breaking these laws.
Today, immigrants make up nearly 10% of the population, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 900,000 new immigrants enter the country each year.
Current U.S. law grants immigrant visas for three reasons: family-sponsored immigration, preferential job skills, and humanitarian refuge. Almost three-fourths of immigrants entering the country now arrive as family-sponsored immigrants, and Congress passed federal immigration law in 1990, almost doubling the number of job-related visas. Today, 140,000 especially skilled workers enter the country each year, and many American businesses wish to raise the cap for both skilled and unskilled laborers. Finally, people come to the United States to escape persecution. In 1992, the United States took in almost 120,000 refugees; however, after September 11, 2001, the U.S. decreased the number of refugees allowed in the country. By 2002, only 35,000 refugees legally entered the United States.(2)
(1) National Issues Forums “The New Challenges of American Immigration: What Should We Do?”, 2003
(2) National Immigration Law Center: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update
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Currently, only about 9% of eligible children in Dallas are being fed through the summer – 91% of eligible kids will be hungry?! Central Dallas Ministries is organizing a 9 week mobile summer food program beginning June 14, 2010. The following primary responsibilities and required standards for each church that participates in the program:
- Assist site supervisors in controlling and maintaining lines for participating children.
- Assist with passing out meals to participating children.
- Assistance with controlling and eliminating any leftover trash and/or meals from each location.
- Assisting site supervisors with crowd control.
In addition to these responsibilities, the following requirements are necessary for each group of candidates who are seeking to participate:
- A minimum of one full week (Mon.- Fri 8:30am-5:00pm) of participation
- Reliable transportation and ability to travel frequently throughout the city of Dallas and surrounding areas. (1 car and driver per each route)
- Ability to work in a fast paced environment that requires a lot of one on one interaction
- Basic communication skills including interaction with children, crowd control, etc.
- Mileage reimbursement of $0.50 per mile in mileage obtained through travel occurred as related to the program (one mileage reimbursement per group 4 individuals)
- A daily lunch reimbursement will be provided for each participating individual.
The program will allow students to interact with various community outreach programs for children while incorporating the fundamental values and beliefs of true mission work. As noted in the requirements, is group is asked to dedicate a MINIMUM of 1 FULL week (Monday-Friday 8:30am-5pm). Please choose from the following weeks:
- June 14- June 18
- June 21- June 25
- June 28- July 2
- July 5- July 9
- July 12- July 16
- July 19- July 23
- July 26- July 30
- August 2- August 6
- August 9- August 13
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Ashley Douglas, Program Manager
Nurture, Knowledge, & Nutrition
Central Dallas Ministries
409 N. Haskell Ave.
Dallas, TX 75246
P: 214-828-1085 Ext. 140
Bike Out Hunger is over but not forgotten. Because the need is great in Texas, Bike Out Hunger brought together more than 50 cyclists, Texas Baptist churches and universities, and Texas Hunger Initiative to help raise awareness of hunger issues and funds for Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger. Five cyclists completed the entire 415 miles, riding about 70 miles a day from starting in Ballinger, Texas, and ending in San Antonio. Seven additional riders completed multi-day rides and more than 30 others, including students and professors, joined to ride each day.
Cyclists riding to end hunger in Texas!
Full Distance (Six Days):
Worship Leader, Baptist Temple, McAllen
Communications, BGCT, Dallas
Communications, BGCT, Dallas
General Surgeon, Gatesville
Pastor, The Heights BC, Richardson
Two (or more) Days:
Advocacy/Care Director, BGCT
Plano Cycling, Plano
Software Developer, Plano
Youth Minister, FBC Hewitt
Baptist Standard, Dallas
Pastor, FBC Golinda
|Tye Barrett||Brian Brabham
Pastor, FBC Ballinger
|Ben Dudley||Holly Glover
President/BUA, San Antonio
Rider’s impressions of Bike Out Hunger:
Rene Maciel, President/BUA: 40% of the students at Baptist University of the Americas live below the poverty line. We serve these students with a small food pantry that runs out of food every month. I’m riding for them.
Rand Jenkins, Director/Communications BGCT: The only time I am food insecure is when I cannot decide where to go out to eat! I can’t imagine not having food to give my 3-1/2 year-old son. It would be devastating to me to not be able to provide food for my family.
Gary Singleton, Pastor/Heights BC: I love to ride and I love this cause. What motivates me is that this could be the beginning of a tsunami by 2015 as we really address hunger in Texas. I want to be a part of this movement.
Job Gonzalez, Worship Leader/Baptist Temple, McAllen: This ride to end hunger really hits home. I live in Hidalgo county, one of the poorest counties in the U.S. I ride my bike through rural areas and see communities without running water or sewage and it breaks my heart. I drove 13 hours to get to the starting point of this ride just to be a part of doing something for hungry people in Texas.
Steve Norris, Surgeon/Gatesville: I am the oldest rider here and I’ve been bike riding many years. My cycle group got older and I decided to get in shape and ride with these younger guys. I didn’t think I could make it, but here I am (at the finish line) doing something positive for this state! Great feeling.
John Hall, Communications/BGCT, Dallas: Riding with these guys and encountering people along the way has been so great. People want to help people…They have seen our jerseys and handed us a $20 at the Dairy Queen. Awareness is being raised all along the route and it’s great to be a part of it.
Ryan Musser, Youth Minister/FBC Hewitt: My friend Morgan and I decided to try to give up the use of our cars for Lent this year…to see what it would be like to walk or ride a bike for 40 days. It was tough. Just as we finished, we heard about BikeOut and it was an answer to our prayers to finish our fast. At mile 42 at the top of a difficult hill, I was reminded that we are called to take up our cross and do the right thing for something as big as World Hunger. As the church, we must do a better job of living sacrificially.
Morgan Woodard, Pastor/FBC Golinda: I’ve never ridden 70.5 miles on a bike in my life! Keeping up with these guys was hard but I kept thinking about the hunger stories we heard along the way, the fact that Texas is number one with hungry children in the nation, and it kept me going. This ride has been a powerful expression of doing something for people in need!
Brad Russell, Baptist Standard, Dallas: What a tremendous experience! I had so much time to think while I was riding…to think about the hunger needs in Texas. The facts we learned along the way have really helped me to understand the needs better and how we must be energized to do something about hunger and poverty in our state.