Reframing the debate on illegal immigration

A few years ago when we put together the first edition of the textbook, about the only thing that got dropped from the first draft because of political controversy was some of my comments about immigration. I suggested that modern Texas was founded by illegal immigrants. I thought it was ironic that today’s Texas is the political creation resulting in part from Americans who illegally entered Mexico.

Geronimo--Show Me Your Papers

A little art from cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz.

Now, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is making the same case. In a story on the Texas Tribune website (“State Records Shed Light on Texas’ Early ‘Illegals’“) Patterson said, “We have a long tradition of immigration and illegal immigration, and the first illegals were folks who look a lot more like me than they did some native Tejano.” Exactly who first snuck into whose territory is an ongoing debate. However, it should be pretty clear to today’s Anglo Texans that they were neither the first nor the last.

From my own experience I can tell the Land Commissioner that this is not what people want to hear. I don’t know how much Patterson cares. He’s an honest and blunt politician. His comments on the immigration status of early Anglo Texans may not help him win the Lt. Governor’s office but he is pointing us toward a more constructive understanding of immigration. People want to view immigration in very simple terms. In reality, the issue is immensely complicated and we need to have a serious discussion to make sure that the next round of immigration reform doesn’t create more problems than it creates.


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