Texas is Letting Fear Decide its Fate on Immigration
by Scott Braddock on January 28, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Texas has an estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants living between the Red and Rio Grande Rivers. Houston alone is home to about 600,000 of those. Texas has a 1200 mile border with Mexico (the longest of any state). Texas has a booming Latino population that sees almost every other issue through the lens of immigration. What Texas does not have, apparently, is leaders in Washington willing to knock down doors to be included in how the nation will fix its dysfunctional immigration system.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled their plan for immigration reform today. They are Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
Conspicuously absent from that list are Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Republicans from Texas.
What happened? It’s not as if Texans don’t understand the need for reform. It’s not even as if Texas Republicans don’t understand the need for reform.
In 2011, the Texas Republican leadership in Austin killed about 100 Arizona-style immigration bills that had been filed in legislature. Delegates to the Texas Republican Party Convention voted 2 to 1 to support a guest worker program for people who are illegally in the country. Delegates to the RNC were so inspired by what was happening in Texas that they also voted to include a guest worker provision in their national platform. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who is a Republican just like every other statewide officeholder, recently argued in favor of common sense reform.
What happened is this: People with no common sense decided for you that Texas leaders should be afraid of this issue.
Senator Cruz campaigned using the tired “anti-amnesty” rhetoric that resonates with the fewer than 5% of registered Texas voters who bothered to show up for the primary runoff last year when Cruz defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Dewhurst was so afraid of that small number of fired up voters that he had his staff delete a speech in which he talked about the need for a guest worker program. Sen. Cornyn is likewise afraid of that small percentage of the electorate who will be just as fired up and ready to vote in a primary and a primary runoff against him if he supports reforms that don’t include nonsense phrases like “self-deportation.”
It’s been said that you should “never let your fear decide your fate.” Ok, it’s a song lyric but I like it.
Immigration is an issue that presents unique challenges to Texas. For good or bad, our social and economic destiny is inextricably linked to how the nation will address it. Our leaders should show courage and demand a seat at the table.