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EAST TEXAS “It definitely tests your faith, but I know bEixid 9very doubt that fl ay _1 [1 il J l IIj i 1 F,71′ I11, iI ‘k,12? L1_1 Hi n Pastor Carl Samples of Dover Baptist Church after a fire near Tyler. Suspected serial arsonists set 10 East and Central Texas churches on fire in six weeks. WATCH MCLEROY discuss civil rights at READ LEGISLATION filed in Congress on immigra tion reform at “I go to church here … our investigators go to church here, and we’re as upset about it as anyone.” Clay Alexander, ATF arson investigator, after two fires on the same day “We’ve still got a cross.” Pastor Shane Barnes of Athens’ Grace Community Church after it burned down “To see these things go up in flames is something that is extremely traumatic and very emotional.” KMOO-FM radio news director David Chenault, who reported on the fires and helped guard his own church in Mineola “We’re blessed that no lives were lost and no one was injured, but I don’t think we let our guard down.” Pastor David Mahfood, of Tyland Baptist Church, after two men were arrested for the arsons FOR THE LATEST political analysis, read Bob Moser’s Purple Texas at www.texasobserverorg/purpletexas “It could hardly be worse than what we have now,” says Dan Quinn, communications director for the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network. The network supported several bills last legislative session sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats removing power from the board, though none passed. Quinn points out that only 10 states, including Texas, select education boards through partisan elections. Most state education boards are appointed. Some on the right think that’s a terrible idea. “Democracy is messy,” says Peggy Venable, state director for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. “Usually those are folks who don’t get their way that are complaining about the process, and what they would look for is maybe appointed boards or boards that wouldn’t be as responsive to the public. We all have a stake in this. We may not always get everything we want, but we can’t chide the process…. I feel like this process has served Texas well.” The Legislature may address the issue again next year. Until then, we’re stuck with the current state board. Brace yourself. DAVE MANN ON THE SCENE Litmus Test ON A RECENT SATURDAY AFTERNOON, MORE TI-IAN 700 immigration advocates from across the state packed into a crowded Austin conference hall. They were organizing to pressure Congress to remember the millions of families waiting for immigration reform. American flags hung from the walls of the Travis County Expo Center room. “Mr. Obama,” one woman wrote on a “Wall of Hope” in careful, cursive letters, “Your decision is our American Dream. Don’t separate more families. Don’t forget your promise.” Politicians, law-enforcement representatives, reform advocates, and business leaders took their turns, speaking on topics from national security to economic recovery. Ali Noorani, director of the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C., exhorted the group to keep applying pressure on Congress. “The Democratic Party has become the party of ‘I can’t,’ and the Republican Party is the party of ‘I won’t,'” he said. “Immigration is the litmus test for Latino voters,” Noorani said. “Voters are waiting for Obama to make good on his promise.” Outside the conference center, activists from around the state got a rare chance to mingle. “This is an unprecedented gathering,” said Fernando Garcia, a conference organizer and executive director of the El Paso nonprofit Border Network for Human Rights. “In the past, Texas did not have a unified voice or much of a place in the national discussion about immigration reform.” Conference-goers agreed on the big things to ask for when Congress takes up the debate over fixing the country’s broken immigration system: a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and more work visas for foreign workers. “It’s going to be a powerful struggle,” Garcia said. “It’s going to bring up a lot of emotion and a lot of fear, most of it irrational, but reform is going to hap pen sooner or later.” MELISSA DEL BOSQUE 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG