Two House Democrats have been trying all session to get the first Republican member to sign on to their immigration-reform resolution. On Wednesday night, they hooked one.
At a State Affairs Committee hearing late Wednesday, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, signed on to House Concurrent Resolution 44 by Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston. HCR 44 calls for comprehensive immigration reform and incorporates some immigration measures drafted by national and state Republican and conservative groups.
The end goal of the largely symbolic resolution is to get U.S. Congress to pass immigration legislation that takes into account the bipartisan approach of Texas leaders, Anchia said.
“Jason has engaged in a good faith dialogue on this issue and has brought much-needed leadership on the Republican side,” Anchia said. “It is this type of bipartisan collaboration that gets things done in Austin and that is needed more in Washington, D.C.”
The resolution takes a middle-of-the-road, even conservative, approach, the Democrats said. Anchia and Hernandez Luna borrowed language from the Texas Federation of Republican Women, which in January called for allowing young people in the country illegally to earn legal status or citizenship when they meet certain standards, such as English fluency.
The resolution never really gained any traction with Republicans — until Villalba came along this week. Villalba, now a joint author, helped the original authors craft a resolution that should attract other conservatives, he said.
First and foremost, Villalba made sure the resolution couldn’t be considered to advocate for amnesty, a term that repels Republicans like few other terms.
The Dallas Republican also changed the resolution’s approach to a pathway to citizenship. He persuaded the authors to change the language so it would call for a roadmap to legal status — toward either citizenship or legal residency — that could only come about after all efforts could be taken to secure the Texas/Mexico border.
“What we’ve crafted is a statement of principles,” Villalba said.
Villalba said he he hopes the measure will be voted out of committee soon and will reach the House floor for debate as quickly as next week.
Anchia added: “I am more hopeful than I have been in this entire process.”