This piece appeared on Aug. 1 in the Rio Grande Guardian. It is time to make bold statements such as those below. Check out the e-newspaper, too, if you get the chance. Steve Taylor, formerly with the QUORUM REPORT is doing an excellent job.
Perryman recognizes contribution of undocumented immigrants
McALLEN, August 8 - Top Texas economist Ray Perryman told a workforce summit Wednesday that undocumented workers are an integral part of the state's economy.
"We have built a huge part of the economy on the undocumented workforce, and until now we have been quiet about it," said Perryman, in the keynote speech at Hidalgo County's first ever Building Future Talent Workforce Summit.
"I tell you, if you took them (undocumented workers) out today our economy would look pretty ugly. Our construction industry would fall apart, our agricultural industry would fall apart, the hospitality industry would fall apart."
Perryman, president of the Perryman Group, is an active participant on the state, national, and world economic scenes, as well as a member of dozens of state, federal, and international task forces. He is often described as the most quoted person in Texas and has been honored by the Texas Legislature for his "tireless efforts in helping to build a better Texas."
Perryman said the “nice thing” about a market economy is that when something has to happen, it happens. He said the way things are, Texas has to have a large immigrant population.
"We also need the undocumented workforce ...it's a vital part of our economy, and we need to figure out a way that's legal,” Perryman said.
"We have built an economy around that (immigrant) workforce. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But, I think we need to bring it out in the open and talk about it, and get a process to make it more efficient and make it legal.”
According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey, there are more than 28 million immigrants living in the United States, the largest number of immigrants ever recorded in the nation’s history. There has been an increase of 43 percent since 1990.
Immigrants account for 10.4 percent of all residents, the highest percentage in 70 years, according to the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, chaired by U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado. CIRC says more than 1.2 million legal and illegal immigrants combined now settle in the United States each year.
To loud applause from the audience, Perryman voiced his displeasure at the prospect of the federal government building a border wall. He said he was concerned about the immediate and long term effects a wall would have on the region.
"I don't like the idea of building a wall on the border," Perryman said. "Who do you think is going to build that wall,” he asked, jokingly. "Don't you think they would have enough sense to build a couple of holes in it? But seriously, we need the workforce, and we need the free flow of workers back and forth.’
Perryman said the free flow also includes the need for goods to move very efficiently across the border. That is now in danger, he said.
"If you just add 30 seconds to the time it takes a truck to get across the border, the 100th truck in line loses an hour," Perryman said. "If, all of a sudden the maquiladora-type plants, instead of getting seven deliveries a day got four, they wouldn't build a warehouse for more inventory - they would move to Asia."
Perryman acknowledged that border security was crucial, particularly because of the need to control illegal drug trafficking. “We need to deal with those issues, and there is a lot of technology that can be utilized to deal with those issues," he said.
Perryman also said that the Rio Grande Valley has a great opportunity to make economic advances. "It's at a crossroads of the local economy, enormous opportunities, all types of manufacturing opportunities, but there's a lot of challenge ahead,” he said.
"The growth and the change have to be there, but I can tell you the main character is alive and well, and right here with this group," he told the audience.
The "Building Future Talent" workforce summit was organized by Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas. The other keynote speakers were U.S. Reps. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
Panelists included Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Bob Shepard, Texas Workforce Commission Executive Director Larry Temple, University of Texas at Pan American President Blandina Cardenas, South Texas College President Shirley Reed, Education Service Center Region One Executive Director Jack Damron, Workforce Solutions CEO Yvonne "Bonnie" Gonzalez, and PSJA ISD Superintendent Danny King.