Immigration Reform Watched By Pastor - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

04/07/06 - Nacogdoches

Immigration Reform Watched By Pastor

by Donna McCollum

A bill that would offer the hope of citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants failed in the Senate on Friday. Nevertheless, a Nacogdoches pastor continues to seek approval to help Hispanics living in East Texas to reach legal status.

Reverend Joseph Barboza has the paper work started to authorize the Baptist church he leads as a 'qualified designated entity'. Barboza will help with the immigration process at the local level, something he did in the late 1990's during the last immigration revision. Barboza said, "Many people are afraid of presenting themselves to immigration office because of their illegal status. Using a QDE agency, like a non-profit organization it's usually the easiest way to approach them because they trust us."

Barboza doesn't advocate people entering the United States illegally. He even supports the construction of a border wall or fence, calling it a "necessary evil". Yet he wants to give illegal immigrants already here a chance for a better life. Barboza said, "We have a team of people that will be very helpful during the applications, translations and guiding them through the process. I see that as an extension to our ministry."

Barboza has led similar missions. He came to the United States under a student visa. He worked with Fredonia Hill Baptist Church by leading its Hispanic mission. Eventually membership became so large that another church was formed. Barboza was prepared to return to his native country, but chose to seek American citizenship in order to continue his ministry.

Barboza said about 20% of his growing congregation are illegal and worried. "Right now they are afraid that immigration is going to deport everyone who is here illegally," said the pastor. Barboza is accustomed to easing fears. He was the first Spanish interpreter in Nacogdoches, often staying up until the wee hours of the morning helping law enforcement with cases.

Barboza is optimistic immigration reform will eventually be worked out. He knows these things take time. Friday's immigration vote didn't come close. The bill got just 38 of the 60 votes it needed to protect it from opponent-sponsored amendments. Lawmakers are expected to take the measure up again after a two week recess.

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