Immigration continues to be a polarizing topic for Texas.
The U.S. has close to 11 million undocumented residents as of January 2010, says the Department of Homeland Security. Texas is second in the country when it comes to the percentage of undocumented immigrants: 1.77 million. California, with 2.57 million, has the highest rate in the U.S. But of those 1.77 million undocumented people, how many of them are going to school, or holding down a job, supporting family and loved ones, and working hard in numerous other ways to contribute to their state and local economy and community?
The bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” a group of senators in Washington, D.C., put together their proposed principles for immigration reform. The Gang, made up of Democrats and Republicans, suggests putting at the front of the immigration line people who have already applied to enter the country. They also recommend that employers work within a citizen verification program to weed out the hiring of unauthorized workers, and that the feds makes a concerted effort to speed up citizenship efforts for workers in U.S. industries where they would be sorely missed, such as agriculture.
President Obama has mapped out his planned approach to immigration reform, which includes streamlining the entire process, increasing border security, putting into place stricter penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers, pushing immigrants to learn English as a second (or third) language, and allowing the waitlisted to come in first. Texas lawmakers, meanwhile, have largely been silent, though bills that could be viewed as anti-immigration have been drafted: Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, supports a bill that would make it illegal to” transport an undocumented person.” State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, meanwhile, supports a bill that would trigger a labor law violation report from the Texas Workforce Commission in the event someone employed an “unlawful resident alien.”
According to a 2012 University of Texas opinion poll, more than 75 percent of the people surveyed stated that they were in favor of stricter limits on immigrants coming to live in the U.S. Of those polled, roughly 62 percent stated that they felt Texas state and local police should have the option of routinely checking people’s immigration status during stops or in the course of other routine police work. Immigration reform advocates have stated that these polls show that Texas is in serious need of immediate immigration reform.
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