The PJ Tatler

On the Border and the Texas DREAM Act

Texas’ position on the U.S.-Mexico border has put the state in a unique bind. Texas’ relatively thriving economy has made the state a magnet for anyone wanting a job, and as a result the state is the number one destination for Americans moving state-to-state over the past few years. I moved back to Texas myself a couple of years ago, both because my family has been here for generations so it’s home, and it’s where the jobs are. And it’s where the freedom is: Texas government does a better job than most of just staying out of your face. But being an economic powerhouse and sharing 1,200 miles of mostly river border with a corrupt, failing state wracked by a drug war have made Texas more of a magnet for illegal aliens than ever before. According to the Texas Comptroller’s office, illegal aliens cost Texans hundreds of millions of dollars per year, in everything from K-12 tuition to medical costs. Illegal aliens also skew the state’s educational and crime statistics. The porous border increases the threat of drug violence and terrorism, as Hizballah is known to be operating in Mexico and may be aiding the drug cartels. Border cities like Laredo and El Paso live with the ever-present threat that Mexico’s violence may spill over the border, as it has a few times already. The costs to the state are enormous, and the federal government has for decades left us to fend for ourselves. In a post-9-11 world this is unacceptable, but neither President Bush nor President Obama took border enforcement as seriously as the issue deserves. President Obama has gone out of his way to insult Texans and loosen border enforcement to appease the likes of La Raza.

In 2001, the Texas legislature and Gov. Perry passed the Texas DREAM Act. There were only four dissenting votes in the legislature, but the measure has now become a football in the presidential campaign. The Texas DREAM Act is not like the national DREAM Act that the Democrats keep pushing, and which deservedly keeps failing. The national DREAM Act is essentially an amnesty and would put millions of illegal aliens on the glide path toward citizenship and voting. The Texas DREAM Act deals narrowly with a subset of the illegal aliens living here who were brought across the border as children by their parents, and who have been here for years and stayed out of trouble. Having grown up in Texas, they are essentially Texans and only know the Lone Star State as their home. Texas’ DREAM Act gives them in-state tuition rates at Texas public colleges and universities. The fact that they shouldn’t be here because their parents broke the law and continue to break the law is countered by the fact that they are here — the question then is, what does the state do about that? With no national will to deport en masse, and with no Washington will to do anything but decrease border enforcement for political reasons, what do states like Texas do?

One thing they can do is try to turn off the magnets that attract illegal aliens, such as sanctuary cities. In the 2011 session of the Texas legislature, the issue of sanctuary cities came up but wasn’t dealt with in any finality. Gov. Perry even added sanctuary cities to a special session to force the lege to move, but the bill ultimately failed. So Houston, Austin, and other large Texas cities remain magnets for illegal aliens, in violation of federal laws that are on the books, but which aren’t enforced. These cities tend to be run by Democrats, blue dots in Texas’ red sea, and they have created these sanctuary policies largely due to politics and expediency. The majority of Texans across ethnic lines oppose sanctuary cities, but major money interests within both parties, and the Democrat left, support them for various reasons. The left sees the demographic shift associated with illegal immigration, chain migration, and eventual amnesty as their ticket back to power in Texas. The money interests, frankly, want to keep the border open because it draws in cheap labor. The Texas taxpayer is less than an afterthought. The president openly mocks us.

Frankly, telling Americans that if they don’t support any particular measure relating to illegal immigration that means they don’t have a heart is insulting. But it’s just as insulting to declare that you’ll build a border fence and be done with it. And it’s insulting for folks who aren’t living in the reality of modern Texas to pick at the state’s DREAM Act from afar as if it’s a monstrous betrayal. The 1,200 mile Texas-Mexico border runs through some wild, rugged country. I used to support a fence along that that border, but the devil’s in the details. Do you put the fence in the middle of the Rio Grande? On one side or the other? Which side? What happens when the river shifts, as it has done many times over the past century or so? A fence in urban areas and along less rugged terrain makes sense, but it’s impractical along much of the Rio Grande. Boots on the ground, drone aircraft, surveillance technology, and serious interior enforcement are the answers, and they’ll never be a perfect answer. But as long as there are sanctuary cities like Houston and Austin within easy reach of the border, serious interior enforcement remains unlikely.

Personally, I don’t like the Texas DREAM Act, but thanks to the federal government’s dangerous irresponsibly — which has grown far worse under President Obama — the state doesn’t have many good options. It deals with the state’s reality, albeit in an imperfect way. Texans are going to pay for the problem, one way or another. The lax border, the state’s economy, and its sanctuary cities all combine to make it a magnet for illegal aliens. Leaving those aliens’ children locked out of the system forever invites trouble at taxpayer expense and, let’s be honest, can alienate the state’s growing legal and native Hispanic population. Forever alienating them from their natural values home in the GOP guarantees only that all of the problems associated with illegal immigration will get worse. But measures like the Texas DREAM Act, while narrowly focused, understandable, and humane, can and probably do increase the power of the illegal immigration magnet.

There aren’t any perfect answers to the border but there is an obvious answer: Enforce the entire border as a national security priority. The next president must lead and secure the border. I trust that Gov. Perry would do that, as would most of the GOP candidates for the presidency. The next president must not sue states that attempt enforcement, as President Obama is doing, but must work with them. Congress must come down on sanctuary cities as violators of federal law, using the might of the federal purse to force the sanctuary cities’ hands, and they must come down on the employer side of the problem as well. Anything less will not be serious, and will likely make all of the problems and expenses associated with illegal immigration worse.

Do all of that, and states like Texas will not have to deal with DREAM Acts at all.