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Dallas Rep. Villalba To Lt. Gov. Candidates: 'Friends, These 'Illegals' Are People'

Callie Richmond
Texas Tribune
Jason Villalba represents District 114 in the Texas Legislature.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican from North Dallas, wrote an open letter Tuesday to his GOP colleagues running for lieutenant governor. The topic? Immigration. The tone? Well, read on...

"I plead with you, gentlemen," Villalba writes, "Please try to find a way to address this very serious problem with compassion, understanding and the knowledge that undocumented Mamas and Papas dream about their children's futures just like we do."

Villalba was responding to the candidates' Jan. 27 debate, televised statewide at KERA's studios. [You can watch that debate here.]

He starts out praising with his fellow Republicans: "I thought the debate was fair and even," and soon turns to his concerns: "But as the night went on, I became increasingly troubled by the tone." Villalba doesn't refer to the candidates by name. But his message to David Dewhurst, Dan Patrick, Jerry Patterson and Todd Staples comes through clearly:

"I heard fellow human beings referred to dismissively as “illegals.”  I heard that we must “stop the invasion,” comparing those seeking the promise of our great country with war-mongering foreign adversaries.  I heard statistics about crime committed by the undocumented, but heard nothing of the economic benefits recognized by the state’s agriculture, oil and gas and construction industries.

"Friends, these 'illegals' are people.  They are human beings who love their little ones just as much as you and I love our little ones.  They want a better life for their families and they want their children to have a better life than they have had.  No, this does not mean you have to abandon your conservative principles and support open-borders amnesty or reward those who have broken our laws.  But it does mean that you should take just a moment to acknowledge the humanity of a hard-working and productive people.  Respect them.  Engage them.  Understand them."

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.