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Immigration Playing Evolving Role in Texas Politics

Image: Immigration Playing Evolving Role in Texas Politics

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 09:01 AM

Immigration is changing the political leanings of most of the major cities in Texas, with a growing foreign-born population of naturalized citizens who tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

Even before the current immigration crisis, immigration has played a big role in the Lone Star State, with not only large percentages of foreign-born people in the border towns but also in its largest cities and their metro areas, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal by Dante Chinni, director of the American Communities Project at American University.

For example, in Houston, more than 1 million people are foreign-born, or 25 percent of the population. Around a third of them are naturalized citizens and can vote, making the county trend Democrat, and it delivered President Barack Obama a win in 2012 of less than 1,000 votes.

In addition, even though Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney took Texas by 16 percentage points, Obama won the votes coming out of 29 counties where the percentage of foreign-born residents is higher than the state average of 16.3 percent by 53 percent to 45 percent.

Obama's fundraising trip to Texas became more political this week amid the latest surge of immigrants coming across the Texas-Mexico border, which has been described as being a "humanitarian crisis" with the unaccompanied children who are showing up in the United States. The president opted against visiting the border, choosing instead to meet with local leaders and Republican Gov. Rick Perry to discuss the surge.

Perry said Wednesday that he doesn't think the president heard or heeded his advice of securing the border.

Perry told host Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity that officials in Texas have known the border was a "real issue" since 2005, and warned Obama in 2009 of the massive problems that could occur if the border wasn't secured.

"I would suggest to you that had the money been spent back in those days to put the National Guard troops on the border to bolster the Border Patrol, we wouldn't be seeing the issues that we have today," Perry said.

And while the current surge of children is gaining the most attention, the foreign-born population in Texas has been swelling all along. According to the last census, Texas has seen its population rise by about 610,000 since the year 2000, with about one-third of that coming from migrants, according to the Journal.

Urban centers have seen the largest population increase. The Census estimated in Dallas County, the population grew by about 35,000, with around 29,000 being from another country. Harris County, which includes Houston, has also seen a net inward migration of 102,000, the census said, with 6,200 being from another country.

The urban counties have also been adding jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by the Journal, the state's largest five counties added some 348,000 jobs between December 2008 and December and the entire state has added 600,000 jobs over that same time period.

Related Stories:
Cornyn, Cruz Blast 'Blank Check' for Immigrant Surge
Obama on Not Visiting Texas Border: 'This Isn't Theater'

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