Splitsville

No border fences make for mad neighbors in Farmers Branch

The council unanimously passed resolution number 2006-099, "imploring and urging" the federal government to "address citizens' concerns about the negative impact our porous borders are having on our national security and on the quality of life..." Mayor Phelps said they would send it to every city in the state and encourage them to do the same.

Leaving immigration policy to the feds wasn't enough to satisfy O'Hare's supporters. Robin Bernier told the mayor that if he didn't choose to support the citizens of Farmers Branch instead of the "illegal aliens...we will consider a recall for the position of mayor, and I'm serious."

O'Hare told media and supporters he was having the city attorney draft a measure that would pass constitutional muster. So far, though, no formal ordinance has been proposed. O'Hare's bid to slash funding for the Funshine Program, the summer camp he said is certain to serve children who are here illegally, was defeated in mid-September when the council voted to pass the budget that included money for the program.

The subject of immigration has caused a rift in the community of Farmers Branch
Illustration by Craig LaRotonda
The subject of immigration has caused a rift in the community of Farmers Branch
Elizabeth Villafranca had never involved herself in politics before, but recent proposals targeting illegal immigrants in Farmers Branch prompted her to protest and speak out with her 6-year-old daughter, Natalie.
Steve Satterwhite
Elizabeth Villafranca had never involved herself in politics before, but recent proposals targeting illegal immigrants in Farmers Branch prompted her to protest and speak out with her 6-year-old daughter, Natalie.

To Carlos Quintanilla, a LULAC member who lives in Dallas, this means victory. "I think it's tabled," he said of O'Hare's proposals in early October.

O'Hare insisted that wasn't the case. "I already have enough support in the town of Farmers Branch to pass these measures," he told me over the phone in mid-October. It's unclear whether his proposals have enough support on the council, but it's expected to discuss potential ordinances at its November 13 meeting.


On a recent evening, Elizabeth sat at her dining room table with a large gray binder practically bursting with news clippings and printed research she's collected in recent months. There were thick reports with names like "Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope" and "North Texas Immigration 2005: Dallas, A Blueprint for the Future." Many of the immigration facts she's printed from the Internet are from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Like O'Hare, much of what she does is motivated by spiritual beliefs. Christians, she says, have an obligation to help the marginalized.

When O'Hare approached her after the September 5 council meeting, they had a brief conversation about faith. He wanted her to know that he'd been misquoted in the press; when he said immigrants live like kings and queens, he said, he was referring to people in Jamaica. They argued about property taxes. A group had formed around them, and as they spoke O'Hare kept taking steps back. At one point, Elizabeth said, "Your behavior isn't very Christlike." He replied that there's nothing "ungodly about upholding the law—this has nothing to do with Christianity."

For Elizabeth, though, it has everything to do with Christianity. "We've become country-club Christians," she says. "It's easy to help people in Africa or Honduras, but what about the people in our own neighborhoods? We have to walk the talk." She shook her head and recalled a man who suggested illegal immigrants leave their citizen children in the United States. "How can you think it's OK to separate families like that? They're not like mice or monkeys."

In her living room, Elizabeth keeps a shrine to St. Joseph with a 3-foot statuette and a velvet-covered prayer kneeler below. She prays for God to use her for something, for anything, "for whatever needs to be done."

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