Bud Kennedy

Joe Barton speaks up to defend DACA support, ‘Dreamers’: ‘I want to do what’s right’

Rep. Joe Barton leaves Congress at the end of December after 34 years.
Rep. Joe Barton leaves Congress at the end of December after 34 years. Bloomberg

Say whatever you want about U.S. Rep. Joe Barton.

But don’t smear the good young “Dreamers” who simply want to stay in the only home they’ve ever known.

Barton responded sharply Tuesday to weekend comments by Republican District 6 candidates. They snidely mocked young immigrants’ “dream” of staying in the U.S., and feared they’d bring millions of relatives to “vote Democrat.”

“That’s not true!” he said angrily.

“It’s not true at all! And I’m not going to stand by and let people believe the community I represent” — east Fort Worth and Arlington southeast to Corsicana — “has that kind of extreme position, because I know we don’t.”

Barton, retiring after a years-old nude photo and text messages to women surfaced online, said he knows he has become a target over “self-inflicted” political “transgressions.”

“But I’m going to be there 11 months, and I want to do what’s right for young people,” he said.

“If you grew up here, were educated here, you’re working and you have a clean record, the right thing to do is give you a chance to stay. These are productive young people who were raised as Americans. Let’s keep them as Americans.”

Barton supports a deal in Congress to protect 690,000 young people brought as children from deportation. The deal includes 7,700 recipients in Tarrant County, maybe 2,000 or more in a college city like Arlington.

“You’re not giving them citizenship — you’re giving them a chance to apply down the road,” he said.

He supports other new immigration restrictions and would not offer adults the same deal, he said.

“But if somebody came here as a 3-year-old, why automatically deport them? If they’ve gone to school, get good grades, maybe joined the military — how does deporting them help our country?”

Barton reserved his strongest words for the idea that keeping young immigrants is politically inadvisable for Republicans.

“That is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

“I guarantee you this — if Republicans go out of their way to disparage people who want to work hard, raise families and do things Republicans support, then that group eventually will not support the Republican Party.”

District 6 is majority-minority and nearly 40 percent Hispanic.

The candidates “ought to get the census numbers and look at them!” he said: “Two-thirds to three-fourths of this district supports my position — 60 percent of our party primary voters do.”

Supporting DACA recipients and young immigrants “is gonna get you yelled at, but it’s not going to get you beat,” he said.

Primary front-runner Ron Wright of Arlington, the county tax assessor-collector and a former Barton aide, told a Saturday forum that young immigrants brought as children are “still illegal” and that he sees no reason for any deal.

Other candidates made more sarcastic comments about “Dreamers” and how they should go back to “their own country.”

Barton declined to comment about Wright, saying: “I know that I’m a little bit controversial. I don’t want to impact him in a negative way.”

Barton said he will vote in the primary March 6 and support the Republican nominee.

Then he has a surprise planned.

“Whoever wins, when they do a town hall, I’m going to be sitting out there in the crowd with everybody,” he said.

“Then I’m going to be the one standing up saying, ‘What are you thinking? You idiots in Washington!’

“I’m really going to enjoy that.”

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy.

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