Accusations of political opportunism and monetary gain are undermining efforts to organize a march for immigrant rights this weekend in downtown Dallas. Oak Cliff resident Ralph Isenberg, a prominent immigrant rights activist, has refused to support the event, claiming the organizers are more concerned with their own publicity and financial gain.
The march, scheduled for Sunday to coincide with Cinco de Mayo, is being organized by Hector Flores of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), among others. Flores says he expects 25,000 to 30,000 marchers to participate, and speakers at the march rally will include "DREAMers" (immigrants who would qualify for possible citizenship under the mandate of President Obama) and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia.
It is Garcia's participation that is causing concern for Isenberg, who says the defense attorney is opening offices across the state to handle cases that immigration reform would create. The flood of immigrants needing representation to file paperwork could lead to a windfall for Garcia's law firm. "There will be plenty of work for everybody," Flores said, who estimates a $100 million industry will be created just to handle legal paperwork. "We're going to need nonprofits, charities, and other groups to handle the flood of applications."
Isenberg has called for organizers of the event to pledge not to profit personally or financially from immigration reform. His organization, the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE), assisted 563 families last year, many of whom had been torn apart by what Isenberg described as aggressive enforcement by Dallas Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Isenberg said he did not pocket any money for his work and used $400,000 of his own money to fund the center.
Isenberg has dubbed Sunday's march the "Mega Dollar March," and the ICIE blog states, "Promoters of Immigration Reform will take to the streets of Dallas in the upcoming Mega March to increase the dollars they hope to earn from foreign nationals and nothing more ... The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) is very concerned that the planned Mega Dollar of 2013 is more about face recognition than it is about immigration reform. ICIE has seen enough exploitation of foreign nationals to demand that any person taking the podium to promote immigration reform shall not profit from it. There is nothing wrong with profit but to promote an event and not fully disclose the driving force behind the event is wrong."
Flores rejects the notion that anyone should be excluded. "This is Latinos for Latinos. [Isenberg] just needs to get on board with us. He has done a great job. He's good at what he does, and he's helped a lot of people. But who is he to say who should be in charge and who shouldn't? Whoever is organizing shouldn't matter. This is about immigration reform, irrespective of who is putting it together."
Garcia stands to profit from immigration reform both financially and politically. Just over a week ago, Flores told The Dallas Morning News he expects Garcia to run again for the U.S House of Representatives in 2014. Garcia lost the primary in 2012 to eventual winner Marc Veasey, a former Fort Worth City Council member, even though the District 33 populace was heavily Latino. Sunday's immigration march in Dallas could put Garcia back in the spotlight and energize Latino voters to support a future candidacy. He is also suing to be placed on the ballot for the office of national president of LULAC. The organization has said Garcia is ineligible to run. The support generated by the march could help both causes.
Isenberg finds Garcia's sudden embrace of immigration law troubling. Without mentioning Garcia by name, Isenberg said, "An organizer of this event has told me numerous times he was not an immigration attorney and could not assist our efforts. Suddenly, he goes into the immigration business. We have to question the leadership of the march: What are the motives?
"I am in the same position. It would be easy for me to say to an immigrant, 'I'll charge to do your paperwork' and use the experience I have. But I will not profit one penny from my efforts. We will not raise salaries if we bring in money. We will only hire more staff to help more people." Isenberg confirmed that he refused to rent space in the Oak Cliff Tower (which he owns) to Garcia's for-profit immigration center, because he did not want to profit from the rent.
Flores says the march is intended to send a message to Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz to support immigration reform "instead of getting in the way." Isenberg is asking Dallas residents to send a message to march organizers by staying home.
Victor Medina is a Dallas freelance writer. His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the board of directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. His website is VictorMedina.com .
- Immigration Issues
- Politics & Government
- immigration reform
- Hector Flores