Todd Staples

Republican Texas lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Dan Patrick speaks during a debate at KERA studios in Dallas, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In the early 1980s, an undocumented immigrant named Mike Andrade began working at a Houston sports bar owned by local businessman Dan Patrick. Andrade said his new boss was kind and understanding regarding his legal status, and even offered to assist him in applying for permanent residency. After Andrade’s mother fell ill, Andrade said Patrick offered to smuggle him home and back for a visit.

Roughly three decades later, a lot has changed. The owner of that bar has become a member of the state Senate and is a leading candidate in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Arguably one of the most conservative politicians in the state, Patrick has employed viciously anti-immigrant tactics throughout his campaign. In both campaign commercials and the televised debate for the lieutenant governor candidates, he has not been shy about using the incendiary term “invasion” to describe migration from Latin America into this state.

However, Patrick is not the only individual whose last three decades should be scrutinized. What happened to Andrade, the undocumented immigrant working in Patrick’s bar? Andrade, who has now lived here for 34 years, became a naturalized citizen in the early 1990s. Shortly thereafter, he got married and had five children, the oldest of whom valiantly serves his country in the U.S. military. The rest of the Andrades live in a house in the suburbs of Houston. Perhaps it is just me, but that sounds a lot like the American dream, and it sounds like Andrade has become a model citizen.

On the campaign trail, politicians like Patrick and his opponents — such as Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — like to bemoan the entrance of these undocumented immigrants, warning they could bring about the end of life as we know it in Texas.

“[Undocumented immigrants] threaten your family,” Patrick said at a recent candidates’ forum. “They threaten your life. They threaten your business. They threaten our state.”

Staples, for his part, wasted no time in criticizing Patrick for the perceived discrepancy. 

“Dan Patrick hired four illegal immigrants to work at his bars,” said a recent campaign commercial for Staples. “[He] even sent a letter supporting one of his illegal workers’ request for amnesty.” 

The other candidates running against Patrick, incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, have similarly piled on the scorn.

“I guess [Patrick] was for amnesty before he was against it,” Patterson said. “The irony is Patrick has accused the rest of us of being soft on immigration, even for amnesty. … Hypocrisy, thy name is Dan Patrick.” 

But amid the entire clamor over how much of a betrayal this evident flash of humanity has been, perhaps it is more important to note what happened after the immigrant in question was granted amnesty. Specifically, how it has affected the country and state we all live in. Politicians such as Patrick like to say that giving amnesty to undocumented immigrants rewards their unlawful decisions, inevitably leading to more unlawful decisions on their part.

However, to my knowledge, Andrade has not lived a nefarious life of crime in the 25 years since he was granted amnesty by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed, of all people, by former President Ronald Reagan, a godlike hero of the modern-day Republican Party. Indeed, he has put down roots in the community, gotten married and provided for his children. Now, one of his children is giving back to his country in the ultimate way, by defending it against enemies.

Andrade, legal or not when first migration occurred, is a success story for immigrants all across this country. And knowingly or not, Patrick helped this success story by recognizing a young man’s humanity and potential to this state.

It is remarkably easy to paint immigration policy and rhetoric with a broad brush, mercilessly criticizing those who yearn for a better life in this country. But when one examines the life stories of those like Andrade, the narrative becomes more complicated. Patrick, and all those who may vote for him, need to remember that.

Horwitz is a government junior from Houston. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @NmHorwitz.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texans still recovering from the devastating 2011 drought have an online tool for information on water supplies and disaster assistance.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on Tuesday announced the one-stop portal called "The Water Source."

Staples says the site combines drought information from various agencies and provides the basics of Texas water policy. Details are also available on reservoir levels and statewide drought conditions.

Experts have said the historic drought cost the state at least $7.6 billion in agricultural losses.

Wildfires continue to spread across Texas

“These fires are serious and widespread, and as mean as I have ever seen, burning more than 1,000 homes since this wildfire season began.”
— Gov. Rick Perry in a press release Tuesday after taking an aerial tour of wildfire damage in Steiner Ranch.

“We were outvoted — what can I say? Obviously this money is needed for natural disasters like the ones we have right now. ... We do have a rainy day fund, and I would hope that the governor goes into the rainy day fund. But we have to also be responsible here locally, and cutting the Forest Service budget significantly was not being responsible.”
— State Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, a retired firefighter, on the reduced funding for the Texas Forest Service included in the recently passed state budget, which Gallegos voted against.

“Damage to this community is reflective of all Texas.”
— Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on the fires ravaging Bastrop, according to The Daily Texan.

“All of the fires are not in the city limits of Austin. If the fires were in the city limits of Austin, that would have been a whole different thing, and I would have made my way back as fast as I could have.”
— Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr in a phone interview with the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday on her decision to stay in Colorado for a golfing trip rather than return to Austin.

“[The fire] is not in the city of Austin. But we don’t work that way. We think of this area as a region, and we’re all in this together.”
— Mayor Lee Leffingwell on the fires, according to The Daily Texan.

“It’s a 100-year event, with fires of this magnitude. It would be better if the chief was here to at least provide guidance to the citizens.”
— Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, on the fires and Kerr’s decision to stay in Colorado, according to the Statesman.

Perry on climate change

“I do believe the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.”
— Perry in Bedford, New Hampshire, last month, according to CBS News.

“The complexities of the global atmosphere have often eluded the most sophisticated scientists.”
— Perry in his book, “Fed Up,” on the causes of global climate change.

“People who discount the science of climate change don’t do it because they’ve read the science. The science of climate change is a proxy for views on the role of government.”
— Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, according to National Public Radio.

Election 2010

When it comes to the race for Texas agricultural commissioner, a rematch of the candidates from 2006 may result in the same outcome in a much nastier campaign.

The race for agricultural commissioner is typically a low-key affair even though winning the office helped Gov. Rick Perry and State Comptroller Susan Combs launch their statewide political careers in the 1990s. The office is charged with regulating pesticide use, exports of livestock and making sure weights and measures used at gas stations and grocery stores are accurate.

Todd Staples, the Republican incumbent who has served as commissioner for four years, has called Hank Gilbert, his Democratic challenger, a “pathological liar.” Gilbert called Staples a professional politician who should “go home and get a real job like the rest of us.”

“They ran against each other in 2006 without so much nastiness,” said Harvey Tucker, a political science professor at Texas A&M. “From the outside, it looks as though the animosity has become personal more than politics as usual.”

Staples’ campaign has hammered Gilbert on personal issues — pointing out his 2001 conviction for theft by check, arrest for outstanding traffic tickets and tax liens placed on his property by the IRS.

“These [charges] aren’t allegations — they’re straight from the dockets of the Smith and Travis County courthouses,” Staples said.

Gilbert, who said he’s talked about his issues with taxes as well as traffic tickets and blamed Staples for the nasty turn the campaign has taken.

“The political side of it for me don’t mean squat,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said that Staples hasn’t done enough to promote Texas’ agricultural products and producers and claimed that programs like GO TEXAN, which aims to promote Texas agriculture products both in Texas and around the country, hasn’t been effective. He would also back a plan to expand production of biofuels in West Texas.

Staples said the GO TEXAN program has been a success and would be further expanded if he’s re-elected. He also said he would back the state’s efforts to oppose attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the output of carbon dioxide, which gas scientists say is responsible for global warming.
No Democrat has held the office since then-incumbent Jim Hightower lost to Rick Perry in the 1990 election.

While Combs and Perry both successfully ran for statewide office after serving as agricultural commissioner, Tucker said he doesn’t feel the job itself has much to do with either candidates’ success in campaigning for higher office.

Perry, he said, benefited from the Republican wave that ended Democratic control of politics in Texas during the 1990s. Combs benefited from running for an open seat in a state dominated by Republicans. Both served as agricultural commissioner for eight years before running for another office.

“Both took advantage of the opportunity to move up when an incumbent Republican chose not to run for re-election,” Tucker said.