Uphold laws and welcome immigrants – that’s the Texan way the country can learn from

Without the border, millions of dollars worth of commerce, travel and trade would be lost, not to mention the cultural hit our great state would take.

by Laura Collins

Texas has felt the impact of the crisis at the southern border more acutely than any other state.

Every two to three years, the number of migrants at our border cycles up again, and, each time, Washington fails to implement policies that would help us better manage migration. As Texans, this is frustrating. Our communities bear the burdens of Washington’s inability to make progress on immigration reform and border policy. But we also understand how essential immigration is to Texas’ continued growth and prosperity.

I believe Texas has a unique role to play in showing the rest of the country how important it is to both uphold our laws and welcome immigrants. Texas should cooperate with federal law enforcement on the border. More importantly, we should lean in where we really shine: welcoming immigrants and helping them become Americans.

We all know that immigration policy is handled by the federal government and not the states. So Texans can’t directly make the changes that are so urgently needed to fix the problem in our backyard such as addressing the root causes of migration from Central America and reforming our laws to build a more robust legal system.

What we and other border states can do is play a unique role in shaping decisions, working with the federal government so that policies reflect the daily reality of residents whose lives exist on both sides of the border. And we can use our voices to show the rest of the United States the benefits of immigration.

As former first lady Laura Bush said in 2019, “We’re a state that thrives due to the prosperity, ingenuity, transformation and generosity of immigrants. And we are a much richer state for all the cultures that have settled on our land.”

Texas is the second-most-diverse state in the nation, with a dynamic culture and a deep-rooted history. One in every six Texans is an immigrant, and more than 107,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients call the state home. Immigrants are the powerhouse of our state’s economy, comprising 22 percent of our labor force and keeping essential industries like manufacturing and health care moving forward throughout the pandemic and during our recovery.

In 2019, immigrants paid more than $40 billion in taxes, and nearly 390,000 embarked on entrepreneurial ventures. Our strength lies in our shared identity and ability to speak to the real-world benefits that immigrants bring.

Without the border, millions of dollars worth of commerce, travel and trade would be lost, not to mention the cultural hit our great state would take.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found that a 10 percent increase in manufacturing on the Mexican side of the border has a ripple effect for Texas border towns, increasing employment by 2.8 percent in El Paso, 4.6 percent in Laredo, and 6.6 percent in McAllen. Our location along the longest stretch of the southwestern border has improved our comparative advantage in industries like manufacturing and energy, while giving us a boost in the automotive sector.

Texans benefit from immigration every single day. The relationship is symbiotic: By continuing the tradition of welcoming people from around the world, we help ourselves. The immigrants who arrive here don’t only become Americans, they become true Texans.

It’s on us to change the narrative about what it means to be a border state. The southwestern border is an opportunity, not a burden or a threat.

By embracing policies that cultivate a streamlined, flexible and humanitarian approach to the border rather than ones that sow fear, we can teach the rest of the country that it is one of our greatest assets.

Texans should vocalize our support for policies that work with our neighbors to improve regional security, expand legal immigration channels and in-region processing, and improve asylum processing. Additionally, we need to advocate for the expansion of legal pathways to work to ensure our economic vitality.

Our 1,200 miles of border is one of our strengths. Immigrants work with us to boost our livelihood, economy and culture.

While a secure border should remain a priority, Texas should maintain its welcoming reputation. Immigrants are essential to our prosperity. Without them, there is no Lone Star state.


Laura Collins is the director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.