Immigration is a divisive issue in Washington these days. In North Texas, though, some members of the local Congressional delegation — both Democrats and Republicans — found some common ground on Thursday at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Congressional Summit.
Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson represents much of southern Dallas County.
“We have almost open borders and no country can survive with open borders,” Johnson said. “But we do have to be fair. We need to look at the talents we need and the future of our nation. I don’t think we’ll solve the problem on the border until we do get comprehensive immigration reform.”
Van Taylor is a Republican who represents much of Collin County. He says there are nearly 30 million people in Texas — and he says the population's not just growing; it's changing.
“Those people weren’t all born here,” Taylor said. “That is a lot of immigration to this place. And that’s a great thing. Immigration has made us stronger, it’s made us better. We have a lot of great people that come here.”
Taylor says business leaders tell him they need skilled immigrant workers to fill jobs that Texans aren't filling — or can’t fill.
“And when I talk to employers around my district,” Taylor said, “they need more employees, more people that are competent, so if you increase that work place visa — not a single one of those visas is given to a person unless they've tried to fill that job with Americans — so it’s an opening we can’t fill. Right now in America, we have over a million job openings more than we have unemployed, and the needs of this region grow every day.”
Marc Veasey, a Democrat whose district stretches across parts Tarrant and Dallas counties, has heard the same thing. He also wants the worker shortage issue included in any immigration reform package.
“Any bill that we pass, we really need to look longterm at what our future employment needs are going to be," Veasey said. "It’s something that we really have to be able to work together, and we should be able to work together in a bipartisan manner on this.”
The congressmembers discussed other local issues, like education and the economy, where they continued to find plenty of common ground.