Don't kill Texas' immigrant spirit

Photo by Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Texas is home to six of the 13 fastest-growing cities in America.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area, where I live, created more jobs last year than any other metro area in the country. I wasn’t surprised that the region beat New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, but I was surprised that we topped Houston — which has now surpassed New York as the favorite city for newcomers to America.

Immigrants enrich us all, and unless we’re Cherokee, Choctaw or Comanche, we’re all children of those who came to America and to Texas by sailboat, steamboat, covered wagon, horse, railroad, car or a trek through the Cumberland Gap or across the Rio Grande.

Immigrants don’t take jobs away from those of us who got here sooner; they create jobs for us, our children and themselves. They’re twice as likely to start new businesses, and they do jobs many of us wouldn’t do.

Rust Belt states like Michigan consistently lose jobs to Texas. When the dean of the University of Michigan’s business school asked me how his state can be more like ours, I told him this: “Texas is immigrant friendly, whether you’re from Louisiana, like me, Ohio, like my wife, or from Timbuktu.” One of our son-in-laws came from Ireland, another from Canada. Other family heritage is Greek, Mexican and Scottish.

George Mitchell — the son of Savvas Paraskevopoulos, a Greek immigrant to Galveston who changed his name to Mitchell so his railroad paymaster could spell it — drilled dry holes for 16 years before he combined hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, revolutionizing our oil and gas industry with technology that has helped America out-produce Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

Texas has a thriving economy because it celebrates ethnic and intellectual diversity and empowers newcomers to become prosperous citizens who help generate wealth for everyone.

Here’s my message to state lawmakers: Please don’t pass laws — like a repeal of in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants — that will change this. We’re all immigrants or children of those who arrived on the shores of this country hoping for a better life for themselves and their families. We all descend from brave immigrants seeking freedom and prosperity. 

This is what has made us a great country, and we must keep this American Dream alive. And Texas — the most American of states — should continue to lead.

Disclosure: Sam Wyly is a major donor to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here

Sam Wyly

Dallas businessman