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Immigration debate causes heated exchange at Commissioners Court

CORPUS CHRISTI – Tensions flared at Wednesday’s Nueces County Commissoners Court Meeting.

The incident happened shortly after Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin gave a presentation on his office’s 287g agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the costs involved with the program.

When the floor was opened for public comment, Dr. Claudia Reyna of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition stepped to the microphone.  During Reyna’s comments, Commissioner Brent Chesney became agitated with what he believed were false statements and allegations against the Sheriff.

“I was just trying to ask some tougher questions because there were some comments made that I didn’t understand where they coming from, and they didn’t seem to relate to the issue on the agenda.”

Commissioner John Marez accused Chesney of being disrespectful toward Reyna, which led to a heated discussion between the commissioners.

“At least give her some respect,” said Marez.  “You don’t have to agree with her, but you don’t have to be a smart-ass about it.”

“I’m not, I’m being mad, just like you’re mad at me,” replied Chesney.  “You get to be mad at me John and I respect that.”

Both Commissioners say reaction to the incident has been over-blown.

“ There’s no ill-will there,” said Marez.  “Sometimes we call each other out, hopefully we correct each other, and if not we get over it soon after that.”

“ We don’t have that happen a lot because we really do get along,” added Chesney.  “At the same time, we do have different philosophies on things and you’re always going to have debates on philosophical differences.”

Chesney says he meant no disrespect towards the Immigration Coalition.

“If I was sarcastic, that was not my intent,” said Chesney.  “I was asking tough questions, I was asking hard questions.  I think that’s my job, to ask hard questions.”

Immigration Coalition members say they were surprised by what happened.  Meanwhile, Commissioners Chesney and Marez both say they agree more often than not, and have a good working relationship with everyone on Commissioners Court.

Nueces County Commissioners listen to comments from Dr. Claudia Reyna of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition Wednesday
Nueces County Commissioners listen to comments from Dr. Claudia Reyna of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition Wednesday
Greg Chandler

Greg Chandler

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