Meet Brad Bailey, the guy who made the Texas GOP’s immigration policy a little less crazy
Brad Bailey (second from left) helped author a GOP document calling for a guest-worker program.
The plan has attracted praise as an example of moderate Republican immigration policy at a time when the national party has come under fire for its focus on tough immigration enforcement measures. That stance has served as a major reason why Latinos have shied away from supporting GOP candidates in many areas of the country.
Still, the plan, which is nonbinding, has its critics who say it’s an empty political ploy that panders to Latinos, who are by far the fastest-growing population group in Texas and could sway elections in the coming years. They also point out that the platform isn’t all moderate. For example, it calls on the federal government to eliminate birthright citizenship and confine it only to the children of U.S. citizens. It would call on rolling back Texas’ law that makes undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition.
Immigrant advocates have long been skeptical of guest-worker programs, since they don’t offer a pathway to citizenship or permanent residence in the U.S.
Last year, Utah attempted to implement a guest-worker program at the state level, but Texas’ platform calls for a national approach. Proponents say that guest-worker programs could help reduce illegal immigration by providing immigrants with a legal way to find economic opportunity.
Supporters of the Texas proposal want to take their language to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, which could pose a challenge to party leaders such as the presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Univision News talked to one of the co-authors of the Texas immigration language, Brad Bailey, who spoke about the plan, the national immigration debate, and what Arizona can learn from Texas.
Read the edited transcript below:
What motivated you and others to make such a change to the Texas GOP’s platform?
My family and I, we own two seafood restaurants in the Houston area and for the past 14 years, I have been in ground zero of this fight. As an employer, I realize how broken the immigration system is and unfortunately, the rhetoric that gets thrown out there, people have no clue of how broken the system is.
Every year, no matter what political party is in power, the problem just gets kicked down the road and it’s used for political posturing.
It’s used in election-year politics. It kind of infiltrated the conservative movement, [some] offered no solution at all, just rhetoric. And it just diminished the GOP brand. And I think we’re seeing that now too with President Obama’s political posturing. We need to look at solutions, not just rhetoric.
How tough was it to convince other members of the party in Texas to adopt this platform?
We heard every testimony we could and a lot of people who testified have been fighting each other for decades. When they got in front of each other, they put their weapons up and got angry.
We asked them a simple question: How many years have you been coming to the Republican convention in Texas and how much has the immigration problem been solved? And the answer we got was, not much better. And we said, exactly. The reason it’s getting worse is because we put the same rhetoric in every year, however we don’t provide a solution.
When we made it clear that border security would come first, you would be shocked: the weapons were put down, the ideas started flowing. Sure enough, everyone was 100 percent for a temporary guest-worker program.
At the last minute, groups tried five different times to take out the new immigration platform, and each time they failed. Two-thirds of the convention supported our plan over theirs. They lost each time.
To put it in perspective, the Texas Republican Party convention — over 10,000 people attend this convention, over 8,000 are delegates and alternates — this is the most conservative crowd you have ever experienced. I mean, you don’t go to a convention for five days, pay your own way unless you’re into it, you know?
We see the frustration that Arizona is going through, but we think there is a better way to go about addressing this. And it’s not a temporary solution like President Obama threw out. We are looking at a solution to address the whole problem, and conservatives should lead on this.
The Latino population has boomed in Texas, accounting for 65 percent of the overall population growth in the last decade. They could be a voting force in next few decades. Did that affect the party’s shift on this issue?
I don’t think it was a major shift. I think people uniquely understand the problems here in Texas. We have a strong heritage of Hispanic roots here. We’ve embraced that. It’s part of our history.
Critics have dismissed this as an effort to pander to Latinos. They note that other immigration planks included in the platform call for an end to birthright citizenship as we know it. Texas Democrats said the GOP are just “throw[ing] a bone at the immigrant community.” How do you respond to that?
First off, if we’re doing that, than what is the President of the United States doing? He has deported more people in three and a half years than George W. Bush did in eight years. He told every Hispanic organization that he was going to address this in first year as president. He addressed it in a temporary basis to get reelected. He has totally avoided the problem.
Yes, we have some planks in our platform that maybe not everyone agrees with. Birthright citizenship might be one of them.
We are making progress. Is it a 100 percent, foolproof plan? No. It’s hard to have a document that 100 percent of people are going to agree with.
You don’t find “illegal aliens” in our platform anymore. We’ve made a really large attempt at [compromise]. It was like a Dr. Phil session almost. If you compare our platform currently to the 2010 platform, it’s night and day.
Do you personally agree with the birthright citizenship language?
I’ll be honest with you, when we came out of subcommittee and committee, we had a different birthright citizenship plank in there. That was something that did get changed at the last minute. It had to get voted on by the full committee and the record shows that I voted against it.
The “Texas Solution” calls on the federal government to implement these policies at the national level. Obviously, passing the platform doesn’t turn them into law. How do you plan to convince members of your own party from other states to adopt it?
Our goal is to take the “Texas “Solution” to Tampa Bay to the Republican National Committee platform.
It will be interesting to see what happens. So many politicians and candidates, they think to get through a primary — and the current example is the presidential primary — they have to ramp up the rhetoric and call people out. But I don’t believe that’s necessarily true.
I call it the third rail of politics now, immigration. No one wants to touch it. I think we proved that in one of the most conservative places in the country, we can embrace a solution.
As you know, the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Arizona’s SB-1070 on Monday. You said in a statement that it underscores the need for a national solution. But what is your opinion on the law itself and what did you think of the decision.
It’s interesting, all the different sides are claiming victory.
I believe a mix of both [approaches to immigration] would work. Everyone has got to realize, and unfortunately Arizona doesn’t do a very good job of that, of saying ‘yes we have to secure our borders, yes we have to demand the federal government fix the problem.’” But you can’t have enforcement only, that only cures half the problem.
I sympathize with Arizona. I understand the problem that they’re facing. We have a much bigger border with Mexico than Arizona does, with crime-laden areas as well. But we also need to look at how to address the 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States. How are we going to [deport] 11 million people? There’s just no way.
We need to put our heads together and take it to Congress.
I want to ask you about Mitt Romney. You talked before about how there was a lot of rancor over immigration in the GOP primary. I wanted to get your thoughts on how he’s handled the immigration issue throughout this campaign?
That’s kind of a tough one, I think he understands the problem but just he doesn’t understand that the people are wanting solutions, not rhetoric. Voters out there see a Congress that’s so entrenched that they refuse to even talk to each other.
We saw Gov. Perry during the primaries get hit pretty hard, but one of the reasons I personally decided to take a leave of absence from my family business to fight this fight was because on Nov. 22, there was a presidential debate in which Newt Gingrich laid out an immigration solution.
It was the first time I had ever seen someone not just get lambasted in the conservative media or lambasted on Fox News or lambasted by Rush Limbaugh. He had a fully-detailed plan. We liked it so much, we borrowed some of his ideas.
I really believe conservatives can embrace this if they do it in the right way.