House Concurrent Resolution 44, which urges the U.S. Congress to "swiftly enact and fund comprehensive immigration reform that creates a road map to citizenship," comes after President Obama's Tuesday State of the Union Address, where he again pushed Congress to craft a bill to address the 11 to 12 million people living in the country illegally, and to repair the nation's existing immigration system. Filed by state Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, it incorporates statistics from the Texas Comptroller, the Cato Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy, and statements of support for immigration reform from former state Reps. John Garza, R-San Antonio and Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, the Texas Federation of Republican Women and a national reform framework authored by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators.
Anchia said he wanted the resolution to have some substance and make a strong statement: that Texas can lead the way on immigration reform.
"According to a poll of 1,000 voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, and Hart Research Associates, a Democratic firm, a solid 77 percent of voters favor a full package of immigration reform," Anchia said in a statement.
Hernandez Luna said it was time for others to benefit from the opportunity to come out of the shadows, an experience she knows firsthand. During the debate over the controversial sanctuary cities proposal two years ago, Hernandez Luna gave a tearful speech about how she was an undocumented immigrant until immigration reform was passed under President Ronald Reagan's administration.
"As an immigrant I can relate to all of these families," she said on Wednesday. "I was undocumented for eight years." She went on to graduate high school at 16 and attend law school after college. She was first elected to the Texas House when she was 27.
"None of that would have been possible without immigration reform in 1986," she added.
Anchia said he would reach out to the House Republican Caucus and open up the resolution to joint authorship. He said the timing was ideal after seeing that lawmakers in Texas were unwilling to pass "divisive" state-based immigration measures similar to bills passed in Arizona and Alabama.
"Texas has resisted that and I am proud of the state for having done that," he said. "If we do not keep momentum going and it fails I worry we won't be able to get anything accomplished for a long, long time."
The resolution states that, according to a 2006 study conducted by the comptroller, the deportation of the millions of Texans in the state illegally would have resulted in a loss to the state's gross domestic product of $18 billion. Figures from the Cato Institute indicate an overhaul of the country's immigration system would add an additional $1.5 trillion to the country's GDP.
The resolution echoes what both parties have said needs to occur before a major overhaul of the old system can occur - fully securing the border. That language has irked some border leaders who say the border is already secure, and allege that elected officials who live far away from the area should not be dictating border security policy. El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said this week that the rhetoric hurts legal trade and migration, and paints the border in a bad light.
"I agree with the judge that the border is secure," Anchia said. "I hear from all opinion leaders that say progress has been made. That language is in there because that continues to be an issue to our friends across the aisle."
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