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Political will meets Texas business interests

In the wake of an election that shifted the balance of power, interesting and contradictory dynamics are sprouting up everywhere. Angry rhetoric over illegal immigration has reached a fever pitch in Texas’ state capital. Vows of ending sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State have dominated news articles, columns, blogs, and run-of-the-mill discussions.

Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick continues to press the issue. As a candidate in 2014, he vowed to crack down on Texas’ illegal hiring practices that continue to attract undocumented workers. However, those campaign promises have not turned into action.

Knowingly hiring people without proper documentation is a federal crime. However, Texas and other states still have discretion in regulating business activity and authority to punish employers who run afoul of the law.

Unlikely Alliances

Few issues can bring together both sides of the political aisle combined with the alliance between businesspeople and illegal immigrant advocates. These alliances have prevented action against undocumented working immigrants.

Many Texas-based businesses rely on low-cost undocumented immigrant labor. With support of the Chamber of Commerce and the American Civil Liberties union, the controversial hiring practices thrives in agricultural, construction, janitorial, leisure and hospitality industries.

The Path Of Least Resistance

Supporters contend that ending the practice would devastate the Texas economy because not enough American citizens will take the jobs that immigrants are performing. However, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment has kept workers in the shadows of a sometimes abusive underground labor market.

Texas businesses hiring job seekers without fear of reprisal has a price that is often paid by undocumented workers. Employers can freely and illegally accept fake documents, designate workers as independent contractors, and pay cash under the table that frees them from minimum wage and overtime laws.

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