want a new guest-worker program or a path to citizenship for foreign workers because they think the state's economy and, in some cases, their own labor-intensive industries depend upon immigrant help.
But by giving big bucks to Perry, they, ironically, have helped the governor foster a political climate of xenophobia that is killing their cause. In an effort orchestrated or encouraged by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based free market think tank, 36 Texas business leaders recently co-signed an op-ed article praising immigrant workers and urging reform of immigration laws.
"We know that Americans must face up to the reality of the foreign workers we need to keep the economy strong and bring them under the rule of law, for their sake and ours," the article stated.
"Baby boomers are retiring. Fertility rates are declining," it added.
"Yet every year, the economy creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs that require few if any skills, and in the next decade, we will be millions of workers short."
Crossing the political spectrum, signers included prominent Democrat Henry Cisneros, the former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary.
They also included such major Perry contributors as East Texas poultry magnate Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim; Houston homebuilder Bob Perry; and businessmen James Leininger and B.J. "Red" McCombs of San Antonio, W.L.
"Woody" Hunt of El Paso, and Harold Simmons, Vance Miller and Louis Beecherl of Dallas.
The article also was signed by J.L. Huffines of Dallas, the father of James Huffines, the governor's campaign chairman.
Collectively, the above eight contributors have given Perry more than
$1 million since 2003, the beginning of his current term. And they already have received handsome returns on their investments.
For starters, there have been significant changes in tort law under the current governor, giving businesses more protections against consumer lawsuits. And Bob Perry (no relation to the governor) won creation of the Texas Residential Construction Commission, which provides even more safeguards to him and his fellow homebuilders.
But, for now, they'd better give up on immigration reform.
Only a few days after their article appeared Aug. 28 in the Dallas Morning News, Perry started running, with their financial help, his first TV commercial of the fall campaign. In it, he bragged about beefing up border security to protect Texans from terrorists and other "illegal activity," leaving viewers free to imagine that wall going up, right before their eyes.
There wasn't a word about job-seeking immigrants, the nonterrorists who make up the overwhelming majority of border-crossers.
When asked, Perry will say he supports a reasonable guest-worker program, but he says that's Washington's job and border security comes first.
The border security ad was replaced by an education ad last week, but it or something similar likely will be aired again.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell supports border security and immigration reform but largely avoids discussing either.
Independent candidate Kinky Friedman has said he would use "the National Guard, the Texas Rangers, the entire Polish army, whatever it takes" to seal the border.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Perry's other independent challenger, may outline her border security plan within the next week or so. Don't be surprised if she proposes a border wall 50 feet high, with razor wire on top.
You can write to Clay Robison, 1005 Congress, Suite 1060, Austin, TX 78701, or e-mail him at
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