In high-level talks, Texas business leaders press the White House to act on immigration

Note: This story originally appeared on The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government. 


White House senior staff are holding “listening sessions” with stakeholders ahead of expected executive action on immigration policy.

Amid the chaos on Capitol Hill and the crisis on the border, Texas construction executives pushing for immigration reform traveled to Washington and met late Friday with senior advisers to President Obama.

Houston construction executives Stan Marek and Gregg Reyes along with immigration attorney Beto Cardenas, also of Houston, met with Obama advisers Cecilia Munoz and Valerie Jarrett to talk about what might happen next as the administration grapples with immigration policy in the face of Congressional inaction. Others were in the room as well, including representatives of Texas farmers.

The White House is hosting more than a dozen “listening sessions,” similar to this one and those sessions wrap up next Friday. One source familiar with the talks told Quorum Report that “they (the White House) didn’t take anything off the table.”

With a deadlocked Congress, Marek and Reyes – both Republicans – said the Democratic administration would be doing the right thing if it moves ahead with a plan to allow millions of undocumented people to stay in the United States. “No one should get a free ride,” Marek said. “These people need to be identified and taxed if they’re here to work.”

“It’s a big issue. It’s much bigger than politics. This has got to be fixed,” Reyes said. “At home when you’ve got a problem like the plumbing’s broken, you fix it.”

Both construction executives pushed back against the argument from Tea Party activists and some lawmakers that what business leaders are looking for is cheap labor. Each of their companies already uses the E-Verify system to check legal status of their hires. The fact is, Marek and Reyes said, their companies have trouble finding enough authorized workers to do the kind of labor their customers demand. That is even when they pay workers more than $13 an hour to start.

The President has been telegraphing for weeks that he will act on immigration policy largely by himself if Congress, specifically the US House under Speaker John Boehner, can’t get its act together.

“August is critical, and September is an action month,” Cardenas said of the timeline. Earlier in the day, President Obama had said during a news conference that while Congress is on vacation, “I’m going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge.”

Cardenas underscored that while he and business leaders from Texas want to see lawmakers address the problem through legislation, they would all be comfortable with the White House doing an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. That executive action, as you may be aware, puts deportations on hold for two years for young immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Those waivers are renewable.

Copyright August 02, 2014, Harvey Kronberg,, All rights are reserved

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