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By W. Gardner Selby April 8, 2014

Jerry Patterson flew solo among statewide elected officials by advocating guest-worker plank in 2012 state party platform

Jerry Patterson, an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor this year, subsequently said that he somewhat uniquely spoke out for a federal guest-worker program a few years ago.

According to a March 30, 2014, news story in the San Antonio Express-News, Republicans including state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, who's in a May 27, 2014, runoff for the party's lieutenant governor nomination with incumbent David Dewhurst, have talked about not putting language supportive of a guest-worker program in this year’s party platform, which is to be finalized by delegates to the next state convention in June 2014. Patrick has stumped on securing the Texas-Mexico border, also objecting in a Jan. 25, 2014, Twitter post to the "illegal invasion."

The Express-News story described Patterson, the state land commissioner since 2003, as saying he was the only statewide elected official to speak in favor of the guest-worker plank at the June 2012 state convention where it was initially adopted. Patterson separately said on his 2014 campaign website: "Many of my elected colleagues privately expressed support, but told me that they just couldn’t take the risk."

Did Patterson, who often flies his own plane between cities, venture solo in this way?

Immigration in 2012 platform

The immigration plank, on page 21 of the platform, states that mass deportation of all the undocumented individuals in the United States "would neither be equitable nor practical," while "blanket amnesty" would only encourage more illegal entries. The plank also calls for securing the border, modernizing Social Security cards and limiting birthright citizenship to babies born to a U.S. citizen.

Finally, the plank calls for a temporary worker program "to bring skilled and unskilled workers into the United States for temporary periods of time when no U.S. workers are currently available," to be self-funded through participation fees and fines, the plank says.

The guest-worker plank was characterized by proponents at the time as a meaningful breakthrough for the state party.

A June 9, 2012, Texas Tribune news story quoted's Bob Price, a convention delegate, as saying adoption of the guest-worker provisions "takes away a tool that Democrats have used for years to drive a wedge between conservative Hispanics and Republicans."

William Kelberlan, a delegate from Williamson County, told the Tribune: "It was a tough pill to swallow; it didn't go down easily." Kelberlan said he recognized the need for immigration reform but thought more time was needed to hammer out the details of what form it should take.

Patterson spoke in favor of the guest-worker plank, according to the story, but it was silent on whether he was the sole statewide elected official to do so.

Patterson invokes 'cojones'

To our inquiry, Patterson indicated he remembers his solo status well.

"Ain’t much to elaborate," he said by email. Asked if he’d heard the speeches given by other statewide elected officials and why he knows he was alone in this regard, Patterson replied: "I know all the statewides. I know what they do and say. I know who has cojones" (um, courage) "and who doesn't. I was the only one."

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By email, Steve Munisteri, the party chairman, confirmed Patterson was the only statewide elected official to speak during floor debate of the guest-worker plank and then only after delegates agreed to let him do so, Munisteri said.

Separately, Brad Bailey told us he helped draft the relevant language as a delegate from Senate District 11 in Houston. By phone, Bailey said Patterson was alone among statewide elected officials in speaking about the guest-worker section.

Main speeches lacked mention of guest-worker idea

We didn't have to take anyone's word for this.

Munisteri reminded us the party placed video recordings of the convention online. So we watched the speeches given by several statewide elected officials: U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn; Gov. Rick Perry; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Attorney General Greg Abbott; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and State Comptroller Susan Combs. None — plus Patterson, in his main speech to the convention — aired support for a guest-worker law. In fact, only Staples mentioned conditions near the Texas-Mexico border.

Patterson spoke from floor during platform debate

But as delegates discussed the party platform, Patterson stepped to a microphone on the convention floor after Munisteri adjudged that two-thirds of the delegates, by a show of hands, had agreed to suspend the rules to let him join the conversation even though he wasn’t a delegate. (Hear Patterson’s remarks starting about the 11:15 mark of the video here.)

Patterson opened by describing himself as a conservative who believes the platform’s immigration plank and border security "go hand in hand."

He then said he supported the then-pending state law requiring most voters to present photo identification at the polls as well as initiatives stressing English as the state’s primary language. Patterson said he also supported a physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border, including a fence in some cases. He added that he opposed "unconditional birthright citizenship," bilingual "balance" and restrictions on police officers asking someone’s immigration status during an apprehension or investigation of a crime. Further, he said, he was opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

But, Patterson said, "I will tell you… that I very loudly, firmly and with great fervor support… a guest-worker program as part of our border security."

"We have folks in this country who are here to do us harm," Patterson said. "They are criminal, they are coyotes, they run things back and across the border whether they are illegals, whether they are drugs or contraband.

"And we also have folks in this country," Patterson continued, "who want to work hard, pay their taxes, obey our laws. And there is no way for those to come here and do that lawfully because our immigration system is broken. We need a guest-worker, temporary guest-worker program that is in the immigration plank in our platform," he said.

Our ruling

Patterson said he was unique among statewide elected officials in speaking for the guest-worker section that became part of the Republican Party of Texas platform in 2012.


TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

News story, "Texas GOP set for war over immigration plank," San Antonio Express-News, March 30, 2014

Document, "2012 STATE REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM," Republican Party of Texas, approved June 2012 (accessed April 7, 2014)

News story, " For Texas GOP, a New Position on Immigration Reform," the Texas Tribune, June 9, 2012

Emails, Jerry Patterson, March 31-April 1, 2014

Telephone interview, Brad Bailey, Austin, April 4, 2014

Videos of 2012 state Republican convention including "Day 2, Video 7 of 8," (11:15 mark) when Patterson spoke during platform debate, June 8, 2012, Republican Party of Texas (accessed April 4, 2014)

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More by W. Gardner Selby

Jerry Patterson flew solo among statewide elected officials by advocating guest-worker plank in 2012 state party platform

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