WESLACO, RGV – Ray Perryman says Congress should put politics aside and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The Texas-based economist was keynote speaker at a Weslaco 100 luncheon recently. The luncheon was one of a series of events held to celebrate the City of Weslaco’s 100th anniversary.

In his remarks, Perryman spoke about the economic conditions of Weslaco, the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and the United States. He also spoke about international trade and the imposition of tariffs on imported goods.

Noting that one in six dollars-worth of U.S. exports originates in the Lone Star State, Perryman said: “When you mess with trade, you are messing with Texas.”

He also made a strong plea for comprehensive immigration reform, arguing that more immigrants are needed to grow the nation’s labor pool.

“Twelve million people work in Texas, 1.2 million are undocumented. There are less than 500,000 unemployed people in Texas. Some people say, all they are doing is taking jobs from Americans. Are you kidding with me? We would be 700,000 workers short if we did not have that workforce tomorrow,” Perryman said.

Perryman said studies show that four out of every five undocumented individuals are working.

“They are here to work. When construction goes down, they leave. When construction goes up, they come back. It is a labor market, just an inefficient labor market. So, all of that to say, we need to get past all the politics and past all the noise. We need to look at this realistically. This country cannot function without those folks right now.”

Perryman said he also wanted to get on his “soap box” to talk about education.

“We have to do something about education,” he said, pointing out that Texas ranks between 42nd and 48th in the nation when it comes to educational attainment. He also pointed out that there is a history of lower educational attainment among Hispanics.

“Today, 52 percent in schools are Hispanic. The families they come from control 4.8 percent of the household wealth in Texas. Let that sink in for a minute. Half the kids, five percent of the money,” Perryman said.

“If you are struggling at math you don’t get a summer enrichment program, because you cannot afford it. Your higher education options are limited, because you can’t afford it. This is a ticking time bomb for us that we need to do something about. If we continue in this state as we are today with education, and we just let demographics do what demographics are going to do, 15 years from now the average person in Texas’s income will be $6,000 lower than it is today.”

If this is allowed to happen, Perryman said, it will mean increased social needs and less economic vitality. “That is not a combination we want. We need to deal with that now,” he said.

The luncheon was held at Knapp Conference Center in Weslaco.

The above podcast features Perryman’s entire speech.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story and podcast shows economist M. Ray Perryman posing for a photo with two members of the audience at a Weslaco 100 luncheon held at Knapp Conference Center on Dec. 6, 2019.