AUSTIN, Texas – State Sen. Eddie Lucio says Bob Perry was all set to be one of the biggest champions for his guest worker bill.

“Bob’s last wish to his representative here at the Capitol was to sign a witness card in support of my bill,” Lucio said Monday, soon after a Senate panel heard one of his immigration-related bills.

Perry, a major campaign contributor, mostly to Republican candidates, died Saturday aged 80. He started Perry Homes in 1968. By 2012 the company was generating $485 million a year. His company and those of others in the construction industry relies heavily on immigrant workers.

“I last spoke to Bob last week. He was one of a number of top business leaders in Texas who were very supportive of my guest worker bill. He gave me a lot of encouragement to move forward with my bill,” Lucio told the Guardian.

Lucio said that under Senate Bill 1336, the Governor of Texas will be able to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the government of a state in Mexico to bring skilled and unskilled workers into Texas.

Through the Migrant Worker Visa Pilot Project, Texas businesses most in need of hired help would be able to obtain legal foreign migrant workers through use of United States nonimmigrant visas. If the pilot program is successful, it could be expanded to other states in Mexico or other countries.

“The business leaders I have spoken to are very excited about this legislation. They desperately need workers,” Lucio said.

A companion bill to SB 1336 is Senate Bill 1704. It was heard by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security. Among the organizations to sign a support card was the Texas Catholic Conference.

Jennifer Allmon, associate director of the TCC, told the Guardian why her group backed Lucio’s legislation.

“The Catholic Conference supports comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level and we believe Senator Lucio’s bill is a step towards the state participating in a program that accepts the realities of our work needs. We have a large number of undocumented workers in Texas who are providing needed work and services and skills for our economy,” Allmon said.

“We believe the vast majority of undocumented immigrants who come to our country to work come to feed and support their families. This would give greater ability for that to happen.”

Allmon said Lucio’s bill would increase border security and authorize the state to work with the federal government to set up a guest worker program as a pilot program. She said the program would be funded through participation fees and immigrants involved in the program would “have to pass background checks, submit health insurance, show proficiency in the English language and participate in a payroll tax system.” By doing all of those things they would then be given identification cards to work, Allmon said.

On Monday, Lucio, a Democrat from Brownsville, issued a statement on the passing of Bob Perry.

“I join the family and countless numbers of friends of Bob Perry in mourning his passing.  He was a godly man, and he was one of my personal heroes. Over the course of my career in the legislature, we had many wonderful opportunities to develop a meaningful friendship; he will be sorely missed.

“I also had the opportunity to work with Mr. Perry on humanitarian issues. The love he had for the less fortunate was tremendous. In his life, he made an impact on thousands of people, including young orphans throughout South and Central America. I personally saw the fruits of his labors as we visited Casa Hogar orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico, which neighbors my Senate district in Brownsville. His generosity there will be felt for generations to come.

“Mr. Perry was a humble man who gave unselfishly. All of us can learn a lot from this man, who belonged to a conservative political party, but whose heart and generosity guided his personal policy position. His legacy will be one of service to God’s people. Because of his good works on Earth, I know he is now in union with our God.”

Another Democrat to pay tribute to Perry was U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine. “Mr. Perry was a true, old-fashioned gentleman,” Gallego said. “Though he and I disagreed regularly over the course of my years in the Legislature, Mr. Perry was always unfailingly polite and a man of principle. He was a strong advocate for and never afraid to invest in causes in which he believed. A proponent of immigration reform, he used his influence to attain bipartisan support. He has certainly left his mark on the State of Texas. “

Perry was born Bobby Jack Perry in a small farm house in rural Bosque County, Texas, in 1932. His father, W.C. Perry was an elementary school principal and dean of students at Baylor University. Perry earned a degree at Baylor and went on to teach and coach football in high school.

According to campaign reports, from 2000 to 2010 Perry contributed at least $66 million to candidates and causes. Among his high profile donations was $4.4 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth political action committee. The PAC aired TV commercials attacking the war record of U.S. Sen. John Kerry when the Massachusetts Democrat was running for president in 2004.

Gov. Rick Perry was not related to Bob Perry. However, he did receive a lot of campaign funds from him over the years. He offered this tribute: “Bob Perry was an exceptional man of great faith who believed strongly in everything he put his mind and soul into, and nothing more so than his family. His astonishing success story as a businessman serves as an inspiration to anyone who ever dreamed of bigger things, and his selfless dedication to the people and causes he believed in serves as an inspiration to anyone who has ever felt the call to get involved. Bob Perry left his state, and his country, in a better place than where he found it, and he will be profoundly missed by us all. Anita and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Doylene, his children, his extended family and friends.”

Another Republican to offer condolences was U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

“Bob Perry cared deeply about Texas and America and he will be missed not only in Texas, but around the globe,” Cornyn said. “Born in a one-room house outside of Waco, his rise from humble beginnings will always be a testament to the limitless opportunities of our country. Despite reaching the pinnacle of business success, Bob never lost touch with his roots. A quiet, private man, he helped the neglected and the voiceless through the orphanages he sponsored throughout Latin America. Sandy and I grieve with his family and our fellow Texans over the loss of this great man.”