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On immigration issues, some of the Republicans in the Texas House will make Smith and King look like bow-tie liberals. For example, State Representative Leo Berman, a six-term Republican from Tyler, will be Debbie Riddle's chief rival for immigrant crackdown leader. In fact, he was almost certainly the one she hoped to beat by camping out on the House floor.
Berman and Riddle will competitively push Arizona-like laws to require immigration enforcement by local police, bills to deny citizenship to children of undocumented aliens, bar undocumented aliens access to civil courts, cut off all state funding to cities that fail to expel undocumented aliens, forbid state agencies to provide services to children of undocumented aliens, levying an 8 percent tax on all money sent to Mexico, Central America, or South America, and a law making English the official language of Texas.
Berman's signature work in the area of citizenship will be his bill requiring candidates for president or vice president of the United States to present their own birth certificates to the Texas Secretary of State before their names can be placed on the ballot in Texas, thus assuring that a foreign-born person will not be able to sneak into either of the two high offices.
King, in the U.S. House, already has signaled that he will introduce immigration bills in Washington parallel to several that Berman and Riddle will bring with them to Austin next January.
If you only knew Berman from his birther bill, you might be surprised by him in person. He does not come across as a Gomer-talking demagogue, at least not at first. A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, son of Latvian immigrants who entered the country through Ellis Island, Berman is genial and speaks with faint echoes of a Northeastern accent. But when he opens his mouth, he does pour out the heart and soul of the region that elects him to the Texas Legislature every two years.
Berman depicts a Texas awash in illegal aliens, the entire state on the verge of sinking beneath their weight. "They're using every emergency room in the state," he says earnestly. "If a Texan actually gets sick or gets injured and needs emergency room care, he's usually sitting in there with a roomful of illegal aliens, waiting and waiting for hours.
"But the hospitals don't charge illegal aliens anything. They get free healthcare. U.S. citizens can't enjoy that benefit."
He describes the burgeoning immigrant population in Texas as if it were anthrax. "You've got one illegal alien that comes in. They've got enough money to buy a rent house. And you get a half-dozen families living in a house. And these people are sending their kids to our schools. They're dumbing down our schools."
He sees the problem in Texas as emblematic of a national crisis. Clearly, Texas is the place to look for leadership, he believes, unlike other more liberal climes that have already humiliated themselves.
"I think Los Angeles is probably governed by illegal aliens right now," he says. "I've heard there are more illegal aliens in Los Angeles than there are Californians."
Berman and Riddle's cause fits on a bumper sticker: Get 'Em Out. The complex case for the moderate side is made of many arguments, but taken one at a time, each can also be direct, persuasive, even simple.