Former Farmers Branch mayor on border crisis: 'Help these kids'

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:06 AM

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas -- Tim O'Hare used to be a prominent face in the fight against illegal immigration. He is now a father, first.

"We should take care of these kids, do right by the kids, regardless of what that takes," O'Hare said. "There are certain times when it is time to spend tax money, and I think this is one of them."

As a councilmember and mayor of the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, O'Hare led the cause to spend millions of city dollars on a controversial ordinance. He wanted to require renters moving into his city to prove they were legally in this country.

The effort to defend the ordinance lasted for years, drew criticism, protests, and boycotts, and eventually failed.

"The confession I'd make - and I've never made such a confession to the media - knowing what I know now, seeing what I saw, would I have championed that ordinance, or the series of ordinances we passed? No," he said Friday, "but I still would have done things to address illegal immigration."

While O'Hare and others in Farmers Branch were painted as anti-immigration, he said they were trying to address an issue he believes the state and federal governments continue to ignore.

"I know our Texas elected officials by and large do a good job for our state, but they keep pointing the fingers at the federal government," he said. "They say, 'Hey feds, do something, do something.' Well, we decided to stop saying, 'Hey, somebody else do something,' and we decided to take care of it ourselves.

"Nothing we ever did - despite the way it was portrayed fairly regularly in the media by the talking heads they interviewed - nothing we did was mean-spirited. Nothing we did was ugly," O'Hare continued. "We tried to do it compassionately. I don't think cities should take it on. I think we've gone that route. In hindsight, it didn't work the way we wanted it to."

O'Hare believes tackling the immigration issue in some ways helped Farmers Branch become a better city than it was when he took office.

In 2011, he decided not to run for re-election. After O’Hare left office, the city continued with what was ultimately a $6 million court battle to defend the rental ordinance, but the Supreme Court decided not to hear the city’s appeal.

There are now tens of thousands of immigrant children illegally crossing into Texas alone, and O'Hare has deep sympathy for them and their families.

"I would've told you back then we need to take care of the kids, I tell you right now we need to take care of the kids," he said. "You know, I've heard things like parents paying people $4,000 to $12,000 to take their kids to America. What parent would put their kids away like that? But on the other hand, you could say they view it as an incredible sacrifice to give their kids a better life. I wouldn't do it, but you know, I'm not in those circumstances, so it's hard to put yourself in their place.

"We absolutely should help these kids, we should use every resource we have to help the kids," he said.  "Faith-based organizations, this is a chance to jump up and do God's work and help these kids and take care of them."

O'Hare wants the children reunited with their parents, if they are suited to be parents. If not, he hopes the children find suitable homes, no matter if it's in Central America, or America, or somewhere else.

"They need to be loved, we need to love them and take care of them, regardless of the political issues and the border issues, the kids should come first," he said. "You know, they're innocent and it's sad."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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