Why a Republican megadonor is teaming up with Democrat Colin Allred on immigration policy

Expanding legal work opportunities will address the labor shortage and stabilize millions of families, say Democrat Colin Allred and business leader Woody Hunt.

John C. Moritz
Austin American-Statesman

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas, the Democratic nominee for one of Texas' U.S. Senate seats, has teamed up with Republican megadonor Woody Hunt of El Paso to urge President Joe Biden and congressional leaders to expand work permits for people seeking to enter the United States to reunite with their families and for undocumented immigrants with a history of working in the country.

In a joint-authored op-ed published Sunday in The Dallas Morning News, Allred and Hunt said that allowing more immigrants the opportunity to work legally in the United States would help ease what they described as a critical shortage of available workers and would help reunite families in which some members have permission to be in the country and others do not.

"The right thing to do by Texas families is also the right thing to do by Texas businesses, and neither can afford to wait any longer," they wrote. "Allowing someone who has worked and paid taxes here for decades — someone who is raising a family here — to legally work, earn a living and help our economy is a boon for their family and for employers."

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred said he is "sick and tired of politicians talking about the problem, about the crisis we are experiencing at our border, but being unwilling to actually solve it."

Representatives of the campaigns for Allred and his opponent, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, declined to comment on the op-ed or the Democratic candidate's association with Hunt. A spokesman for Allred said the opinion piece "speaks for itself."

In their op-ed, Hunt and Allred said more than "3 million U.S. citizens in Texas live with someone who is undocumented, such as a spouse or a parent."

"We also know that nearly two out of three undocumented Texans (64%) have been contributing to their communities here for more than a decade," they said. "They are critical to our economy and our competitiveness, paying $4 billion in taxes and wielding a spending power of $33.9 billion."

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Allred is running to unseat Cruz, a two-term Republican, in the Nov. 5 election. Hunt is the senior board chairman of the Hunt Companies, vice chair of the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development in El Paso, and treasurer of the American Business Immigration Coalition. He is also a supporter of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the immigration initiative started under then-President Barack Obama.

El Paso billionaire Woody Hunt has been a generous donor to a wide range of Republican candidates, the Republican Party and a host of conservative causes.

In a briefing last month by the immigration coalition, Hunt said expanding work opportunities for immigrants is "politically smart and morally right."

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"We don’t have enough workers to fill the jobs we have. If we want to keep this economic engine turning, the business community needs the president to act and for Congress to help us find more legal workers," he said.

Hunt has long been a generous donor to a wide range of Republican candidates, the Republican Party and a host of conservative causes. Gov. Greg Abbott, former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are among the Texas Republicans who have received contributions from Hunt.

He has also contributed to Democrats, many of them from his hometown of El Paso, where few Republicans hold elective office. Hunt donated to then-U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke's campaign when he represented El Paso in the House before challenging Cruz in 2018.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, an immigration hard-liner, is running for a third term.

Immigration and border security are among the most emotional issues of the 2024 election cycle. Cruz, an immigration hard-liner, issued a statement in March calling Biden's immigration policies "disastrous."

“The disaster occurring at our southern border is the direct result of Joe Biden’s neglectful open border policies," the statement said. "This administration’s willful negligence has allowed human trafficking, crime, and deadly drugs (to) invade our communities at unprecedented rates. This is a humanitarian catastrophe."

Allred, after voting for the ill-fated legislation that would have added more than 1,500 new Customs and Border Protection agents and about 4,300 asylum officers to aid in the effort to address unlawful immigration, said politics is getting in the way of addressing the immigration issue.

"And I am sick and tired of politicians talking about the problem, about the crisis we are experiencing at our border, but being unwilling to actually solve it,” he said in a news release.

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