Hidden Faces in Closed Spaces


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By Joe Starkey | July 2, 2006

U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos M. Gutierrez came to Abilene June 21, 2006 for a secret meeting with “Abilene business and community leaders.” Hosted by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce and Abilene Christian University, the meeting was announced as “not open to the press” and limited to invited persons. Campus Police under Chief Ellis cleared the entrance to the Atrium of the ACU Williams Performing Arts Center of all spectators and reporters prior to the meeting in the name of security. No photographs of the meeting from outside the glass walls of the participants were allowed. According to Secretary Gutierrez, the discussions were closed due to time restraints and the belief that there would be a franker discussion of community issues and opinions. It is not the job or responsibility of local news media to report the position of the President as related by a government official. We and any of our readers can find that out by going on the internet, listening to the evening news or going to the public library to read Washington newspapers. It is our job and responsibility to report the expressed views of our local community and business leaders on issues affecting our community such as Immigration Reform. By closing this meeting to the media, a pall of suspicion was cast and will remain over the actual purpose of the meeting and what actually happened. Years of honesty and reputations for conducting business in clear view have been compromised by unthinking decision makers. The people of Abilene will never know what happened in that meeting because there were no impartial observers to verify or deny the participants’ version. The person or persons making the decision to close the meeting to the media has damaged both the current Bush administration and the leaders of Abilene reputations by this secret meeting. Further, they may have violated the provisions of the Texas Sunshine law if there were sufficient members of the City Council or the Planning Commission there or other bodies such as the School Board in this meeting. No impartial observer is available to prove/disprove that they did not take actions pertaining to the duties of their various boards. Another concern is the selection of the persons attending. As stated in the title of this article, it appeared to be almost completely white leaders of Abilene. This reporter got to the site approximately 30 minutes before the meeting was to start and the only non-white Abilene residents observed entering were Mr. Daniel Ortega of First Financial and Mr. Floyd Miller representing the Black Chamber of Commerce. When a representative of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce was asked how many Hispanic leaders were invited and attended, his short, cold reply was “Several.” Asked how many several were, i.e. three? – He only replied again “Several.” The press conference was told that approximately 40 Abilene residents attended the meeting. Using an often repeated figure, that Abilene is about 25% Hispanic, you would have expected 10 or more Hispanic leaders present. Reports from one attendee stated that there were no more than four and that counted Abilene Chamber of Commerce, Director of Communications, Lupita Cuadros. In addressing the press conference , Secretary Gutierrez stated that President Bush’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Plan had two major parts. One was to insure security of the nation’s borders both by use of increased guard forces and by use of technology. Second was to hold business leaders responsible to uphold the regulations while enabling them to help enforce the laws by requiring all persons to have a guest permit. The guest permit was held up as an ultimate way to prevent illegal immigration as it would be required and checked so there would be no need to cross the borders without such a permit. This ignores both the fact that current illegals use forged paperwork and the difficulty in telling if a black person was born in Africa or Alabama or a Hispanic person was native born in the U.S. or Brazil or whether this reporter was born in New Mexico or Ireland. Additionally the program would recognize illegals for their contribution to the U.S. but not offer amnesty. Secretary Gutierrez reminded the press conference that the United States is a nation of immigrants and has worked well. One point emphasized was that all immigrants would be required to learn English. He also pointed out that this is a global economy and the U.S. must compete. “We do not have the population to support our aging workforce.” Questions and answers during the press conference. ? Why do you think we can get a national policy on immigration when we have not formed one on energy? A. The people will demand it. ? What were some of the concerns expressed by Abilene leaders? A. The shortage of labor in some areas of the economy and concern about pressure on the health care system. ? Some Spanish language stations are saying “This is our land. We must take it back.” and many Americans are angered about this. How do you deal with the intense emotions the subject is creating? A. Slow logic. ? Can Mexico help with the problem? A. Mexico can create a more viable reality by social and economic reforms that create more jobs there. Secretary Gutierrez’s closing comment was that U.S. unemployment is low and labor is needed from other sources.