The issue of illegal immigration was front and center during the fight for the GOP nomination for governor.

Governor Perry lashed out at Washington and, by extension, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, for doing nothing to keep illegal immigrants out of Texas.  Ironically, during the same debate, Perry was also forced to defend his support of in-state college tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.  Instead of stating the obvious, which is that many of these kids were brought here as babies, Perry said “they’ve been here a long time” and they’re on a path to citizenship.  The governor laments that if Washington would do its job, Texans wouldn’t have to make these hard choices.

Students who were brought here as babies, many of them cradled in their mother’s arms as these poor women crossed the frigid waters of the Rio Grande in winter, had absolutely no choice about where they would be raised.  Their parents thought it best to bring them to the land of the free, only to find out they’d be persecuted as Christians were persecuted by the Romans.  I have interviewed many of these students who rightly feel they’re being singled out for a decision they had no hand in making.

Senator Hutchison brags about her commitment to quadruple the number of Border Patrol agents, but enforcement of current law is only part of the solution to our problems.

Where Governor Perry and Senator Hutchison are both wrong is that Washington doesn’t just need to keep illegal immigrants out of Texas, the leadership in D.C. needs to come up with a common sense solution for dealing with the people who are already in this country illegally.  Many of them don’t even want a path to citizenship, but they would like a scenario in which they can work hard and honestly without fear they’ll be separated from their families.

When I was growing up on a farm in Southeast Texas, there were only two types of people who would do the hard, hot sweaty labor required to make the crops flourish:  The people who owned the land and the illegal immigrants.  That was back before the people who would cut weeds from your cotton crops had been made out to be demons by the Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck’s of the world.

For those who complain that illegal immigrants use our services for free, I ask you:  Why not have a system under which they can pay for those services?  If they were identified and taxed at a higher rate, there would be no room to say they’re not contributing.

There have been more times than can be mentioned when what’s right and what’s legal were not the same.  Many of my conservative Republican friends would say abortion is wrong, yet it remains legal.  I would tell you that robbing precious children of their parents during immigration raids is wrong, but that, too, remains legal.

I implore Republicans to reach out to the growing Hispanic population, which shares so many of your values. They are pro-life, pro-gun, and most of all pro-family.  Should their families not be as valuable simply because they’ve come here to do jobs we won’t do?  George W. Bush got it right when he said “family values don’t end at the Rio Grande.”

(This post originally appeared here.)