Dan Patrick's former employee shows the danger in stereotyping immigrants


Republican Texas lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Dan Patrick speaks during a debate at KERA studios in Dallas, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In the early 1980s, an undocumented immigrant named Mike Andrade began working at a Houston sports bar owned by local businessman Dan Patrick. Andrade said his new boss was kind and understanding regarding his legal status, and even offered to assist him in applying for permanent residency. After Andrade’s mother fell ill, Andrade said Patrick offered to smuggle him home and back for a visit.

Roughly three decades later, a lot has changed. The owner of that bar has become a member of the state Senate and is a leading candidate in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Arguably one of the most conservative politicians in the state, Patrick has employed viciously anti-immigrant tactics throughout his campaign. In both campaign commercials and the televised debate for the lieutenant governor candidates, he has not been shy about using the incendiary term “invasion” to describe migration from Latin America into this state.

However, Patrick is not the only individual whose last three decades should be scrutinized. What happened to Andrade, the undocumented immigrant working in Patrick’s bar? Andrade, who has now lived here for 34 years, became a naturalized citizen in the early 1990s. Shortly thereafter, he got married and had five children, the oldest of whom valiantly serves his country in the U.S. military. The rest of the Andrades live in a house in the suburbs of Houston. Perhaps it is just me, but that sounds a lot like the American dream, and it sounds like Andrade has become a model citizen.

On the campaign trail, politicians like Patrick and his opponents — such as Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — like to bemoan the entrance of these undocumented immigrants, warning they could bring about the end of life as we know it in Texas.

“[Undocumented immigrants] threaten your family,” Patrick said at a recent candidates’ forum. “They threaten your life. They threaten your business. They threaten our state.”

Staples, for his part, wasted no time in criticizing Patrick for the perceived discrepancy. 

“Dan Patrick hired four illegal immigrants to work at his bars,” said a recent campaign commercial for Staples. “[He] even sent a letter supporting one of his illegal workers’ request for amnesty.” 

The other candidates running against Patrick, incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, have similarly piled on the scorn.

“I guess [Patrick] was for amnesty before he was against it,” Patterson said. “The irony is Patrick has accused the rest of us of being soft on immigration, even for amnesty. … Hypocrisy, thy name is Dan Patrick.” 

But amid the entire clamor over how much of a betrayal this evident flash of humanity has been, perhaps it is more important to note what happened after the immigrant in question was granted amnesty. Specifically, how it has affected the country and state we all live in. Politicians such as Patrick like to say that giving amnesty to undocumented immigrants rewards their unlawful decisions, inevitably leading to more unlawful decisions on their part.

However, to my knowledge, Andrade has not lived a nefarious life of crime in the 25 years since he was granted amnesty by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed, of all people, by former President Ronald Reagan, a godlike hero of the modern-day Republican Party. Indeed, he has put down roots in the community, gotten married and provided for his children. Now, one of his children is giving back to his country in the ultimate way, by defending it against enemies.

Andrade, legal or not when first migration occurred, is a success story for immigrants all across this country. And knowingly or not, Patrick helped this success story by recognizing a young man’s humanity and potential to this state.

It is remarkably easy to paint immigration policy and rhetoric with a broad brush, mercilessly criticizing those who yearn for a better life in this country. But when one examines the life stories of those like Andrade, the narrative becomes more complicated. Patrick, and all those who may vote for him, need to remember that.

Horwitz is a government junior from Houston. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @NmHorwitz.