Texas mayor Herb Gears of Irving, Texas, is no Corey Stewart. He is a man very torn between those who would run every last illegal immigrant out of town and those Hispanic business people and leaders who feel the measures that have been taken split families and are overall bad for the community. Herb Gears, featured in the New York Times Remade in America series is a moderate.
Two years ago, Irving decided to conduct immigration checks on everyone booked into the local jail. First term mayor, Herbert A. Gears, led the charge. He felt that jail checks were far better than the more draconian measures encouraged and touted by his opponents and political enemies and he proposed his plan as a means of compromise. (Is this all sounding familiar?)
As battles over illegal immigration rage around the country, Irving’s crackdown is not unusual in itself. What makes it striking is that it happened with the blessing of a mayor like Mr. Gears, an immigrant-friendly Democrat with deep political ties to the city’s Hispanic leaders, a man who likes to preach that adapting to immigration – especially in a city like his, now almost half-Hispanic – is not a burden but an opportunity, or as he says, it’s “not a have-to, it’s a get-to.”
But as a wave of sentiment against illegal immigration built around Dallas and the nation, Mr. Gears came to realize that his city would be unable to remain on the sidelines – and that his own political future would depend on how he navigated newly treacherous terrain.
Irving is one of a growing number of cities across America where immigration control, a federal prerogative, is reshaping politics at the other end of the spectrum, the local level, in the absence of a national policy overhaul. To watch its experiment play out over the better part of the past year in City Hall and in its residents’ lives is to see how difficult political moderation has become in the debate over what to do with the country’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
According to Mayor Herb Gears:
“I let my instincts rule the moment in that instance,” he said. “What weighed heavily in my thoughts is that if we didn’t do something, a lot more immigrants were going to be hurt.”
“And now,” Mr. Gears added ruefully, “I’m the hero of every redneck in America.”
We defeated the crankies, and no one thought we could,” Mr. Gears said of his re-election. “We’ve defined what our responsibility is, and that’s only to allow the federal government to do its job. It’s not our responsibility to evaluate it or assess whether it’s good or not.”
Still, he is not totally comfortable with the position he feels he must take. He sounds like quite a character-a tough man with a good heart. Check out the story of Irving, Texas and its mayor, Herb Gears. Most of us will be able to identify with this town and its people. Is Irving our sister city?