As Texas Republicans, we have the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the nation. Let’s not pick sides, let’s pick what is right for Texas and right for America, without compromising conservative principles in the process.
Washington continues to be paralyzed and unable to find the right fix to secure our southern border and reform a failed immigration system. Maintaining the “status quo” only plays into the hands of President Obama, allowing him to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce.
Saying “secure our border” is certainly the right approach and as conservatives, we know that reforming the existing broken immigration system that makes a mockery of our border security is an essential element. Why? Because our current laws make it easier for a business to hire a worker illegally present in our nation than it does a legally documented guest worker. This is wrong and why an “enforcing our current laws only” approach is inadequate to fix the bigger problem.
We must adopt platform language at our convention this summer that doesn’t work. Texas Republicans must address head-on the need for policy that is unwavering on border security and stopping future illegal entry, and does so in a way that addresses the vexing dilemma that has allowed Democrats to stall reform and Obama and company to use this issue as a political wedge for too long.
For real immigration reform to take place, we must establish a policy that secures our borders, actually enforces improved, existing and future laws, and implements a Penalty Not Pardon plan for the millions here illegally today. We also, in an effort to secure our borders and end a shadow economy, must revamp our failed union-era, quota-based visa system for all guest workers. We can do this by insisting on policies that are market based and designed to put American workers first. Another important element is to modernize our ports, our legal points of entry. This framework for reform allows us to deal with the most contentious problem of how to manage the millions of undocumented in a manner that doesn’t undermine our sovereignty, grow government, or wreck our economy and recognizes it is our own government’s failed policies that has led to this massive shadow economy.
Let’s face it: Posturing about a new or special pathway to citizenship is purely political, not necessary to accomplish workforce/immigration reform and security for our nation, and is the fundamental issue keeping Washington from acting, which results in benefitting the Democrats. I believe the millions illegally here today came looking for a job, not citizenship. For the rest, we have a citizenship process that begins with legal entry, and we must not sacrifice this for political expediency.
Our nation needs immigration-reform leadership, and Texas has a unique perspective that must shape, guide and prod the national debate. With our state being home to almost two-thirds of the nation’s entire southern U.S. border and the second-largest population of undocumented workers, Texas is in the perfect position to take the lead in developing, debating and delivering tangible solutions to our country’s immigration stalemate.
I repeat we must separate legal work status from citizenship. Those individuals who want more than a job should be required to seek U.S. citizenship by applying from their home country. Anything less would be an affront to those many new Americans who proudly join our nation’s citizenry each year through our extensive citizenship process. Settling for less also opens the border insecurity flood gates by telling the world we are not serious about securing our borders and enforcing our laws.
I know–as Texas Republicans–we can lead on this critical issue and craft solutions guided by free-market principles, not shallow political leveraging.
Todd Staples is the current Texas Agriculture Commissioner and author the book Broken Borders, Broken Promises.