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Now is the Time for Real Immigration Reform

Sharing a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, Texas has always been and will always be at the forefront of the immigration debate. Two more reasons why Texas can be in the middle of the latest efforts at immigration reform: Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee ranking member John Cornyn and newly elected senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz. Both senators have a real opportunity to play a significant role in long overdue efforts to reform our broken immigration system.

With so much at stake in the effort, Texas would benefit greatly by them stepping up as leaders of the reform movement. Never has there been a bigger need for sensible immigration reform.

Texas has always been a destination for Hispanic immigrants. But, in more recent years the foreign-born population has changed as people from all around the world have begun to settle in an assortment of large Texas urban centers like Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Immigrants in Texas accounted for over 25 percent of the population growth between 2000 and 2006 and these numbers are only anticipated to grow in the future.

Not only are immigrants moving to Texas to take advantage of job opportunities, they are moving here to join the community as business owners, citizens and homeowners. Texas homeownership rates among the state's immigrants rank well above the national average regardless of when they arrived. And, Latinos who have resided in the United States 18 years or more have an extremely high homeownership rate of 68 percent.

As the baby boomer population begins to retire and our current workforce continues to age, Texas needs younger workers to make our economic system sustainable. Population growth is key to our economic growth and so much of this population growth is and will continue to come from foreign-born immigrants and their offspring. Our economic system relies on immigrants — we should be welcoming those who want to come here and be productive members of society, paying into our tax base and pumping money into our economy.

Sadly, today it is extremely difficult for immigrants to come here legally — a hard truth that affects many Texas industries, like agriculture, hospitality and construction. Further, many who come legally to gain a higher education in Texas cannot stay and fill high-skill jobs our companies have open simply because they cannot get a green card to stay.

Immigrants play a vital and irreplaceable role in all facets of Texas' society. Unfortunately, there is no question that America's immigration system is broken and unwelcoming at best. There are immigrants who wait years for a visa, even if they have a job opportunity waiting for them in the US. There are employers in the United States desperately seeking part-time and seasonal workers and would gladly recruit across the border, but cannot attain the temporary work visas necessary to fill their employment needs. High skill jobs vacancies hinder economic growth, despite the availability of foreign-born, U.S.-educated workers. We desperately need to modernize our system and time is running out.

In Congress, the Gang of Eight, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), has outlined a bipartisan approach that is both thoughtful and sensible. It outlines a solution to our current system that allows for a more flexible work-related visa system and provides a resolution to the immigrants who are currently here in the U.S. illegally without providing them amnesty, but rather an appropriately difficult path of penalties, background checks, back-taxes, learning English and payment of back taxes over an extended period of time. The proposal calls for secure borders with the active inclusion of those of us on the border to help determine just what that means. It’s a reasonable set of principles and there is a real opportunity to finally put reform in place.

I am hopeful senators Cornyn and Cruz take advantage of the opportunity to help make these needed reforms. Their leadership would help move reform forward and help solve one of the biggest issues facing Texas today.

 

 

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