Home / Culture and Society / Texas Lawmaker Proposes Responsible Immigration Alternative

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Responsible Immigration Alternative

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

I was not particularly impressed with Paul Workman when he ran as a Republican for State Representative in Texas district 47. I supported his opponent in the primary and kind of ignored him in the general election as I live one district over from his district. But this week he got my attention in a way which I never expected, by proposing a state bill (HB2886) to implement a guest worker program for illegal aliens under the authority of the Texas state government.

I like the way that Workman is thinking outside of the box and looking for creative and realistic solutions to the problems posed by illegal immigration. He seems to be taking a lead from Arizona’s efforts to take the immigration issue away from the federal government, but instead of following their draconian course he’s acknowledging the benefits of immigrant labor and going after the real problems created by having those workers in an underground labor market which lowers wages, increases crime and makes the illegal population difficult to regulate effectively.

It’s a big step for a Republican to acknowledge that we might have to live with immigrant labor and need to find ways to make the best of it. Workman’s background in the construction industry presumably gives him a heightened awareness of the issue. While other legislators are trying to follow Arizona’s strategy of more legal restrictions and crippling penalties for businesses, Workman is going after the real problems with a realistic solution.

Most of the problems associated with having an underground labor force come directly from the fact that their illegal status encourages them to work for lower wages and not pay their way in society. Making them legal guest workers would put them into the normal wage market so that they would not undercut native workers. This addresses the complaint that they are taking jobs from Americans. You won’t be able to go out and hire an illegal for 30% less than a native worker anymore. Making them legal will also mean that they will no longer have to work off the books and it will bring them fully into the tax structure so that they will pay for the services they use, just like anyone else. This addresses the common complaint that illegals send their kids to schools and use medical services without paying for them. Making them legal also means that they are less likely to be forced into crime or be victimized by criminals because of the vulnerability created by their illegal status.

Just having a guest worker program will not suddenly start giving jobs to Mexicans and taking them away from American workers. It does nothing to make immigrants more qualified and takes away their low wage advantage. We’ve already seen that as unemployment has gone up, illegals have been going back to Mexico by the millions. Those who remain behind already have jobs or are part of the criminal underground. A guest worker program will make the working illegals visible and will expose those who are potential criminals. You would give the workers a work visa and round up everyone who doesn’t have one and send them home.

The illegal immigration problem is one which comes primarily from the conflict between a natural free market in labor and government’s attempts to limit that market and make it unfree. If you take away government’s negative role in suppressing the access of workers to available jobs, then you have a healthier and more free labor market where workers go where the opportunities are and everyone benefits.

This is not to say that Workman’s bill is perfect. It places an unreasonably high cost on a work visa at $4000. While he claims that’s equivalent to what these workers pay a coyote to get here, he overlooks the fact that it will likely be in addition to those expenses which were already paid or will still have to be paid to get into the country if the federal government is not cooperating at the border.

Workman’s bill includes some additional safeguards which may allay some concerns, but could be problematic. The guest worker permit would last for 8 years and applicants would have to pass a criminal background check. It also requires that employers provide guest workers the same benefits they offer other employees and that American workers be given preference in hiring. That last provision may be hard to enforce and along with the $4000 fee it might have a chilling effect and discourage workers from taking part in the program. For such a program to work it needs to be clearly advantageous for workers who are currently illegal to take advantage of it.

One thing which is clear is that Workman has done his homework. That 8 year duration is clearly based on studies which show that the average illegal worker stays in America for about 8 years before going back to Mexico voluntarily to enjoy the benefits of the money he has earned here. More than 80% of illegals do not want to stay in the US but want to return to Mexico and start their own businesses and thereby raise up the Mexican economy and create better jobs at higher wages there, ultimately reducing the pressure to come to America for work.

There are constitutional and jurisdictional issues raised by the bill. As Workman said, “the feds are going to blow a gasket.” As with the Arizona bill this proposal challenges federal authority to control immigration policy and it will butt heads directly with federal immigration enforcement efforts, feeble though they are. Once again this is state government stepping in to do a job which the federal government is supposed to do but has repeatedly failed at, particularly by not enacting a sensible policy like this themselves. Unlike the Arizona law this addresses real problems in a positive way.

Workman is not alone in this effort. A similar bill has already passed in Utah and is waiting for the Governor’s signature. If Workman also succeeds here in Texas it’s likely that other states will follow his lead when they see it is a more sensible alternative to doing nothing or taking the kind of action Arizona has taken.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see a proposal like this and Workman deserves a lot of credit for coming up with a good idea and not listening to the vocal nativist minority in his own party. A policy like this is good for business, good for legal and illegal workers and makes all of our citizens safer. Creating a more free market in labor reduces crime and increases prosperity for everyone.

Powered by

About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • How likely is it that the Utah bill will actually become law? Your language – that it is “waiting for the governor’s signature” implies a formality, whereas that of the newspaper article you link to is more neutral, saying that he is “considering” it.

  • Pamela

    Another, slave master, doing everything to keep his willing slaves. Same thing was going on, right before the Civil War.

  • Pamela, this bill would give considerable additional liberty to immigrants who face something much more like slavery now.


  • Doug Hunter

    Interesting article and what appears on the surface to be a workable idea. I agree that the fee is a little steep, would be a good move for the state in many ways but Republicans probably aren’t smart enough to pass it.

  • Mr. Workman is probably correct in thinking that the federal government would “blow a gasket” over the various constitutional issues (federal preemption is certainly among them) implicated in his “work visa” plan. He notes in that connection that “One potentially sticky point would be immigrants’ taxes. If the bill becomes law, the taxes that would have been paid to the federal government would be sent to the state instead.” There are probably issues with Social Security payments, federal income tax withholding, the nature of the cooperation the state would continue to provide to the federal government in implementation of federal laws and the like; an illegal alien with a Texas “work visa” would still be an illegal alien under federal law.

    I think it’s great for states to attempt to deal individually with their differing immigration problems and wish that such efforts were viable. However, so long as the federal government claims substantially to preempt such efforts they are quite unlikely to work. The “draconian” (Dave’s adjective) Arizona law, successfully thus far challenged in court and prevented from going into effect, at least attempted to track federal immigration statutes and to assist in their enforcement. However, the judge in that case accepted, erroneously I think, most of the arguments of the federal government for preemption. Similar but substantially more valid arguments could be raised against the proposed Texas statute.



    The bill is OK, but fortified compounds and hunting rifles are still the best protection against illegal immigrants.

  • El Bicho

    very bizarre that you only pop in on Dave’s pieces with those old references

  • He likes to stalk Dave, just as RJ likes to stalk him. It’s the natural order of the BC universe.

    “Great fleas have little fleas
    Upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas,
    And so ad infinitum.”

  • It is highly ironic that in our nation’s dilemma with illegal aliens, the aliens themselves are the absolute least of our problems.

    The real aggressors here are the criminals who masquerade themselves as businessmen that hire unlawful labor for slave wages. From both a legalistic and humanistic standpoint, the actions of these people are, to put it extraordinarily mildly, reprehensible. If any legitimate progress is to be made combating the tide of illegals in the near future, then their enablers must be held to the fullest extent of the law for their injustices without delay.

    Once the incentive for illegal aliens to enter the United States has been thoroughly disestablished, then they will simply have no reason to leave their respective home countries, or regions, to seek employment opportunities.

  • No, Joseph. As is so often the case, you’re dead wrong. The businessmen are not the criminals here. They are only doing exactly what we should expect and want businessmen to do. They are hiring the best workers at the best price in order to turn a profit. If we have laws which make that a crime then it is the laws which are wrong, not the actions of the businessmen.

    And the only way you can remove the incentive to come to America is to destroy our economy completely. Great plan.


  • Cannonshop

    Breaking that enablement would probably require changing the immigration situation to eliminate the opportunity to use fear of being caught as a means to those negative ends, Mr. Cotto.

    Frightened people can be more easily abused, since they will not take steps to obtain justice against their abusers. The ‘enablers’ you’re talking about, are using (knowingly or not) the system-the threat of discovery, against their employees.

    that is what allows the locked-door sweatshops.

    Find a way to remove the fear, and you remove the basis of power needed for the exploitation.

  • Heloise

    I like this and the fact that you call out the problem it is mexicans as illegals almost completely. Employers prefer them to you and me. Let’s get that clear. Mexicans are here to get free stuff. If crossing the border can be done with a rig and a rope then they are here in a flash. They will not pay legal money because it goes against the grain of their greedy nature.

    It is a two-prong problem we need to go afters the employers, you know who you are, who are deliberate in replacing native white and blacks. I see it everyday.

    As for imports from china that goes hand in hand with Mexican workforce since Chinese blood runs in their veins.

    The other thing that bothers me about mexicans and blacks as well, is that they are ungrateful. And show it by their attitudes. They don’t like the natives here and want to fly their flags and speak broken Spanish in class instead of English. And like so many other immigrants who write USA bashing books. Wish we could show them the door too.

  • Cannonshop

    #12 Heloise, I’ve had to work in situations where my colleagues were of…questionable…legality.


    They also tend to be more polite, responsible, and considerate than Americans-at least, in the workplace.

    which is the only place that really matters.

    In construction, at least, I have been able to observe something else…

    They’re more likely to do quality work, than native-born americans at the same price.

    The simple fact is, Yanks feel ‘entitled’, especially Yanks born after about 1945, and that entitled mentality negatively impacts their work-ethic to such a degree that, were I running a business, I’d be MORE inclined to hire Immigrants (legal ones, I’m not stupid), than native-born.

    The majority of white, american kids have been raised in a “Self Esteem” culture that has left them, in my experience and observation, a bunch of little narcissists with a big laziness problem and a slack outlook on the concept of work.

    Mexican, Viet, Lao, Chinese and Guatemalan kids, otoh, (along with Koreans and such) raised outside this ‘Self Esteem’ cult, tend to give an honest day’s work for their pay. White kids just can’t compete until they’ve been newspapered a few times by reality into realizing that the world doesn’t owe them a fucking thing, and that they have to actually WORK to earn their money.

    That’s right, I said it-one of the big contributors to the immigration problem, is that white people are lazy and do slack work, and don’t as a group give an honest day’s work for their day’s wages.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    #13 – quoted for absolute truth!

    I’ve known a few illegal immigrants, and my wife was one at one time before the Reagan amnesty…and YES, I’ve found them every bit as trustworthy as my fellow whites. What’s more, as to C-shop’s observation that

    The majority of white, american kids have been raised in a “Self Esteem” culture that has left them, in my experience and observation, a bunch of little narcissists with a big laziness problem and a slack outlook on the concept of work.

    let me add an observation of my own – I’ve YET to see a Mexican or an Asian standing at a streetcorner with a sign begging for food. I’ve seen one Mexican on a streetcorner…but he wasn’t begging – he was selling strawberries.

  • Doug Hunter

    #13 / 14

    You’re truly comparing apples to oranges. Immigrants are self selected ambitious and motivated to work (else they wouldn’t be here in the first place), the whites in construction are often those leftovers that couldn’t partake of the myriad of other opportunities for advancement in this country. Many native born American’s perception of the ‘good life’ (or entitlement if you will) can’t be had for $10 an hour so why try at all, why not get an education then get a $60K+ secure government job with benefits. Comparitively, by Mexican standards $10/hour is enough to live a fine life and send money back to family. I don’t see a problem with wanting the good life and striving to earn more than a laborers wage, just don’t expect me to feel sorry for you when you don’t get it (you hear me Wisconsin protesters!).

  • Brittanicus

    Again–those States that ignore public opinion and the billions of dollars extracted from public service and welfare programs to sustain illegal immigrants will initiate consequences of refugees arriving there from Arizona and other self-restriction States. If Oklahoma, Utah, Michigan legislators giving away to indulgent provisions, playing into the greedy hands of industry and other open border seeders. They too will be submerged by mass populations of illegal cheap labor, mainly from low income labor. These people are ready and willing to steal American jobs as they have been doing for three decades. Unsettled by new policing laws throughout the country, unknown numbers of foreigners will head in all directions looking for a better home. States that pander to illegal immigrants such as California, Nevada will get their fair share of paperless people, as they spread across the Southwest. California has been soaked for a 24 billion dollar deficit, so how much money is your State taxpayers out-of-pocket subsidizing anybody who makes it this side of the fence or through airports. No State is immune if the State lawmakers who decide to tamper down rigid laws.

    Every State needs to be unswerving towards mandating E-Verify, 287 (G) and Secure Communities police programs. If you are here illegal and get caught, which you eventually will in some scenario you will be deported, with zero tolerance. Amnesty is out of the question with the majority of Americans and the growing membership of the Tea Party steadfast in their resolve. We have already had six hidden amnesties since Ronald Reagan’s unenforced 1986 immigration law and we pro-sovereignty groups are suspiciously watching for these irregularities. NumbersUSA does not disguise the facts from the Leftist editorial, but offers disquieting statistics and what is really being done to stem the ever increasing tide of illegal immigrants? The US Government does not always tell The People the full truth, so those interested in the corruption and details emanating from Congress and State Capitols on the illegal immigration issue should investigate the website of Judicial Watch. If you want to call your federal or State Representative directly, find the phone number in the blue pages of your phone directory.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    When it comes to Wisconsin voters, think on this: anyone who’s traveled the world cannot deny that when government workers are not paid well, government corruption rears its ugly head. Sure, even if they’re paid well there will be SOME corruption as there is in ANY human organization, public, private, religious, whatever.

    BUT you get what you pay for. When it comes to teachers, policemen, firefighters, county clerks, assessors, road surveyors, Medicare administrators, immigration clerks – every single facet of government – if you do not pay them well enough AND provide real job security, then you WILL have a significant rise in corruption.

    Why? Honesty in one’s job is one thing. But being asked to do a PROFESSIONAL job with less than one needs to live a middle-class lifestyle WILL result in many more otherwise-honest people taking payoffs to do this little favor, or not notice that particular drug deal, or survey the property line a few feet the other way.

    Doug, you NEED good and trustworthy and professional government workers, whether you like it or not…and if you spent a little time in a third-world country, you’d see what happens when you don’t pay them well and provide decent job security.

    You get what you pay for. Pay them well, give them decent job security, AND hold them to a high standard, fine. But pay them less, give them questionable job security, AND hold them to a high standard? You’re asking for a lot of trouble…and it’s all of us who’ll pay the price in the long run.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Doug –

    For instance, do you really want a mail clerk handling Social Security checks every month to be having to work two jobs in order to make ends meet, much live a middle-class lifestyle? Do you not see the danger here? The same applies to ALL government workers.

  • Dave,

    The individuals which you characterize as “businessmen” are blatantly engaging in activities which are in clear violation of federal, state, and more than likely local laws. Calling them entrepreneurs would be akin to referring to one who is speeding down a winding, heavily travelled two-lane mountain road with no guardrail as a professional race car driver. While such inane rationalizations might seem pleasant in the short run, the truth usually catches up with them; more often than not in the form of a decade-old Crown Victoria adorned with flashing lights and an extremely loud siren.


    I agree with you that the frightened people are painfully easy to manipulate. This is why their manipulators must be punished for their despicable behavior. Allowing illegal aliens to lose their “illegal” prefix will only create a new set of problems as they will be forced into America’s legitimate labor force and subject to minimum wage laws. Then, those who currently are striving to find employment will have several million new competitors to deal with. Amidst this unfolding turmoil, our modern-day robber barons will find a new source of underground labor, continuing with their barbarianism unpunished.

    Of course, and this is not necessarily directed at Dave or Cannonshop, the Flavor Aid-guzzling libertarians reading this will undoubtedly proclaim that the scenario which I just described can easily be solved by eliminating the minimum wage.

    This is true, but it is equally true that, if this degeneracy were to take place, America would unfold into a labor revolution and instantly become the world’s most influential third-world country. What we need is a national system in which all Americans would be obliged to carry a foolproof identification card in order to get a job, buy an automobile or home, and apply for government services. Should this happen, then the illegals would be effectively frozen out of our economy and their controllers, or as Dave would so much more kindly put it, employers, forced to hire persons who are in this country legally.

    Case closed.

  • Or, better yet, it should be “agree with you that frightened people”.

    Since three comments making an amendment to a single comment is a bit much, perhaps an editor can roll them into one.

    Should this take place, my thanks are given.

  • Cannonshop

    #19 Joseph, it’s got to be a two-pronged approach, reforming and reformatting the immigration process, AND enforcing the laws-particularly local and state-which are meant to address it. (Arizona and Texas, for example).

    A national solution is impractical-not the least because the upper crusts from California to New York are among the “Exploiters” you castigate (and that’s rich folk on both sides of the aisle-Beverly Hills Libs are just as guilty as Simi Valley farmers of the practice.)

    I’m not as sincerely Libertarian as, say, Dave Nalle is-I view it as a practical problem made worse by emotional involvement on both sides of the debate, as well as economic arguments.

    There must be laws regarding who can immigrate into this nation-that’s a bloody FACT-it is also a fact that when the law is loosely or poorly enforced (whether immigration law, or drunk-driving law, or speeding…) it tends to breed a certain contempt for the law, which in turn breeds wider and wider failure to comply with it.

    This is accellerated when the law is very complex, or when it is so complicated those tasked with enforcing it do not know, nor understand it.

    Gustavus Adolphus has been credited with saying “Make no law you can not enforce”, by demonstrated example, the present immigration law is a law that the government can not enforce. Whether, as the Arizonans believe, it is a matter of choosing not to, or, as many assert, it is a matter of simply being unable to, the law is violated daily, in many areas semi-openly, and when enforced it is not enforced evenly, or responsibly.

    Laws that fail as utterly as the present system vis’a’vis immigration, ought to be either repealed in toto, or replaced entirely with laws that CAN be enforced without destroying the liberties of law-abiding citizens.

  • Clavos

    …a mail clerk handling Social Security checks every month…

    SS payments are direct deposits these days…

    And, in any case, there’s a huge difference between what USPS employees receive in compensation (including benefits) and being so poorly paid they’re tempted to steal.

    You’re raising yet another strawman.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    1. No, not all SS payments are made by direct deposit – there are many elderly who don’t use it and don’t trust it…and I’ve personally delivered many a SS check into a P.O. box. And for another quick example, EVERY state sends out thousands of checks every month just to Foster parents – as I should know.

    And you ignored my point, Clavos – postal workers ARE well paid and compensated right now…but many conservatives would have them paid and compensated far less and think nothing of what would happen as a result.

  • Doug Hunter

    “postal workers ARE well paid and compensated right now”

    At our current post office, several are also rude and pitiful at their jobs. Why the hell people get into jobs requiring customer service when it is strikingly apparent that they abhor customer service is beyond me. Businesses cut customer service to save money, but they generally have the sense to put people like this in a back room somewhere. Additionally, our mail carrier puts our neighbors mail in our mailbox about 2 days out of the week, this person is a careless ass who is nothing but defiant when confronted with it. We had to get a PO Box and have all our mail sent their and drive to the Post Office and check it because of the unreliability. There’s a downside to not working for profit or having competition as well.

    *** Not saying this is universal. Other post offices have had great staff, this is the worst I’ve ever seen and must be the place they stick all their bad employees that no one else wants to work with. They should fire the whole lot and replace them with people who give a damn.

  • Doug, it sounds like your post office may be suffering from bad management, and poor morale as a result.

  • Clavos

    .but many conservatives would have them paid and compensated far less and think nothing of what would happen as a result.

    Not to worry, it couldn’t get any worse than it already is…and this conservative would can ’em all and close the place down.

    And Doc: The entire USPS “suffers from bad management,” and has for decades. These days, it’s also losing billions of dollars a year, and has had to enlist the aid of UPS and FedEx to help it get the mail moved.

    If ever there was a poster child for bureaucratic inefficiency and mis- and malfeasance, the USPS is it.

  • Heloise

    Cannon the truth is we are both right. Wait until this group comes of age we will see the same enculturation and sense of entitlement. What is the dream act?

    I see the welfare moms and their offspring with more babies in cheap buggies. They jam the stores with 3 shopping carts and 5 kids all on our backs. Yes they work hard so do a lot of people. But hell I can’t go to France and get a job The next day and I speak the language.