Pro-Life Christians Should Insist Texas’ GOP Leaders Embrace Dreamers – Before Texas becomes California

Texas has made national news in the past week with a bold new law that has – at least for the moment – effectively stopped abortions of unborn children past six weeks of gestation, the point at which the child’s heartbeat is detectable. Meanwhile, in California, an effort to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom failed dramatically last week: the reality is that California, once governed by Ronald Reagan and other Republicans, has become among the most reliably Democratic states in the country.

The story of California’s political evolution – to become a state where a pro-life law like Texas’ is practically unimaginable, even were Roe v. Wade someday to be overturned – is a cautionary tale that arguably has its roots in the mid-1990s, when Republican governor Pete Wilson advanced a harsh anti-immigrant proposition that would have kept immigrant kids without legal status out of public schools.

Conservative commentator William F. Buckley warned at the time that Wilson’s proposal represented a “strain of xenophobia” that could “evolve into anti-GOP resentments by the majority of Californians” and lead to “electoral catastrophes” for the party that champions the pro-life position.

It did exactly that – which explains how a Democratic governor could maintain the support of roughly two in three Californians even after angering a broad swath of the state by hypocritically violating his own stringent COVID rules to host a fundraising dinner at a fancy French restaurant.

Since 1994, California Hispanic voters, whose share of the state’s electorate has dramatically increased over the past quarter century, have become a reliably Democratic voting bloc. In 1990, California’s GOP gubernatorial candidate won the Hispanic vote; by 1998, the GOP candidate for governor won just 17% of California Hispanics’ votes, and most voted last week to keep Newsom in office. That partisan shift occurred even while most Hispanic Catholic and evangelical voters maintain their view that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases – likely because many felt personally targeted by anti-immigrant policies that targeted these mostly-U.S.-born voters’ undocumented parents and grandparents.  

The Texas story, thankfully from this conservative Southern Baptist pastor’s perspective, is quite different. Back in the early 1990s, most Texan Hispanics voted for Democrats, but by 1998, Governor George W. Bush – who rejected anti-immigrant proposals like those supported by Republicans in California, instead echoing the pro-immigrant rhetoric and policies of his father, president George H.W. Bush and of President Reagan – won fully half of the Hispanic vote. By 2004 in his presidential reelection, after advocating policies that emphasized not only border security but also improvements to the legal immigration process and an earned legalization process for undocumented immigrants, Bush won 44% of the Latino vote, far higher than any Republican candidate since.

While there’s been some erosion in support, Texas Hispanics still supported GOP President Donald Trump’s re-election last year at a significantly higher rate than California Hispanics. And the Texas GOP’s relatively high share of the Hispanic vote has made possible the legislative makeup to pass pro-life victories like the new heartbeat bill.

But, tragically, some Texas Republicans are at risk of imperiling that advantage – shifting Texas blue and reversing pro-life victories – by shifting to an anti-immigrant stance in recent years that resembles California’s actions in the mid-1990s.

No policy presents a grear political peril than Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit seeking to end the popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed nearly 100,000 young immigrants in Texas alone who were brought to the country as children (too young to have made that decision for themselves) to work, reside and pay taxes lawfully. A recent judicial ruling on Paxton’s suit ruled against the DACA program, putting the program once again in jeopardy.

In the coming months, as higher courts consider appeals in this lawsuit, it’s very likely that these “Dreamers” – whom President Donald Trump rightly praised as “absolutely incredible kids” whom he loved and wanted to respond to “with heart” –  could be stripped of their employment authorization and put at risk of deportation. That’d be a travesty for these young people, for the churches of which many are active members and for the employers who rely on their labor.

But it’d also be a disaster for the pro-life cause, because these hostile, heartless attacks on Dreamers will likely accelerate the shift among Texas’ still-growing Hispanic electorate away from the GOP and to the Democratic Party. Texan evangelical Christians like me, who for biblical reasons are both pro-immigrant and pro-life, need to speak up now, before it’s too late.

If Texas wants to stay red – and sustain its pro-life victories – we need Texas’ U.S. Senators to quickly take the lead in resolving this looming crisis for Dreamers with legislation. There’s already a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate, the Dream Act, that would legislatively resolve the plight of these young people, allowing them to pursue permanent legal status and citizenship in the only country that many of them can even remember.

Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz should join the Dream Act as cosponsors – not only because it’s the right thing to do for Dreamers and for the country, the vast majority of which supports such a solution – but also to avoid imperiling the pro-life victories we’re currently experiencing by alienating Hispanic Texan voters with anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.

Tim Moore is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Leander.


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