News : Party lines

Cowboys and immmigrants

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones caused quite a stir with City Council and the local press last week when Mayor Phil Hardberger introduced him in the Council chamber.

Jones and his son, Stephen, presented a No. 7 Cowboys jersey to the mayor, which he promptly donned over his shirt and tie (his name was spelled out on the back of the garment). The number seemed appropriate since the mayor could be considered the City’s quarterback. The football franchise owner also gave the mayor a chrome football helmet, and presented footballs to the 10 councilmembers. Hardberger talked about how great it will be to have the team practice at the Alamodome over five summers beginning in 2007.

The local press was all agog at the spectacle as the entire City Council crowded into a conference room with Jones to once-again congratulate each other for scoring the Cowboys’ training camp. City Clerk Leticia Vacek stood nearby to ensure the councilmembers did not vote on anything during the press conference.

“We are delighted to have them here; this town is full of Dallas Cowboys fans,” Jones told the rapt audience.

There were at least two Houston Oilers fans in the conference room but they remained silent.

On a more serious note, councilmembers Roland Gutierrez, Delicia Herrera, Patti Radle, and Elena Guajardo signed a letter that Radle sent to U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, reminding them that San Antonio “has a national reputation for being a compassionate city,” and urging them to “craft legislation that acknowledges and respects the historical and foundational contributions of all immigrants to our country.”

Furthermore, the letter says, the H.R. 4437 Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act “would criminalize churches, nonprofit organizations, other charitable institutions, and individuals for assisting undocumented immigrants with basic necessities such as we provided for Katrina evacuees. When Katrina evacuees came to us, we did not think to ask for their ‘papers.’”

Several citizens chimed in during Citizens to be Heard to address the immigration issue, only a few days after thousands marched down Houston Street to protest Congress’s punitive mindset toward undocumented workers. “We are not focusing on the economic impact immigrants have on this country,” said Jaime Martinez, a local community organizer. “They are too often the forgotten people in American society. We cannot stay silent anymore.”

Gabriel Quintero Velasquez took the podium and reminded Council that the Anglos who made a last stand inside the Alamo in 1836 were undocumented immigrants.

Antonio Diaz said immigrants who are already established in San Antonio “should not be penalized and tormented further by having to play hide and seek.” He urged the City Council to establish a “no deportation zone” to protect undocumented immigrants from La Migra raids, at least until Congress can devise a more humane solution to the immigration question. Diaz also pointed out that many Mexicans and other Latin Americans are native to America. It was the Spaniard Hernán Cortés and other European invaders who immigrated to the New World and eventually took it over.

Pedro Ruiz lamented a federal plan to build a “Berlin Wall” along the U.S.-México border, and said his grandfather hailed from Monclova. “He crossed the Rio Grande `to the Mexicans, it’s the Rio Bravo` many times to support his family.”

Next, the City Council heard a proposal to limit the number of formula, or chain, restaurants that can locate along the San Antonio River from its source near Hildebrand Avenue to the Espada Mission community to the south. Proposed amendments to the Uniform Development Code would define formula restaurants. You can see the proposed definition of a “formula restaurant” at

It merits mention that Councilman Richard Perez said he is not familiar with the entire length of the river, and would appreciate a tour “to see what is actually out there.”

That’s a great idea. Mayor Hardberger and City Council should rent some tubes, pack an ice chest, and float the river. There will have to be some portages, since the San Antonio River Authority, whose original mission was to make the San Antonio River navigable all the way to the coast, has done the opposite and erected numerous dams along the river channel.

Basic rules for floating the river, borrowed from river outfitters on the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, include: Don’t throw empty beer cans into the water. Watch the profanity and public lewdness. Don’t forget the sunblock, and please, please, please, don’t urinate in a riverside homeowner’s backyard — their children might be watching.

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