Ed Walker is a longtime political conservative and the owner-operator of Sabine Creek Ranch, a youth retreat center in Royse City, Texas. The ranch has hosted hundreds of children for church and school camps since 2003. But in 2015, it welcomed a new group: It opened its doors for a few weeks to children who had crossed the border alone, without papers, from Mexico.
“Even though they were technically being held by the government, it was amazing to be able to connect with them,” says Walker. “They were scared, they didn’t speak the language, but we were able to encourage them to make good decisions, get an education, and stay away from gangs and drugs. Regardless of where they wind up, I hope we had an impact while they were with us.”
Although Walker supports strong borders and policies — to prevent the entry of unmanageable numbers of people fleeing danger and poverty — he also recognizes the need to care for people on humanitarian grounds. “Americans do an amazing amount of good around the world, but part of our strategy must also include thoughtful programs for addressing refugee issues here at home.” Walker notes the strong relationships he has built with refugee families who have been relocated to Dallas from around the world. “We often don’t share the same background, native language, or religion, but we do share real friendships. Now I’m seeing their children entering college to become doctors, nurses, and contributors to our society. I’m watching the American dream unfold for them, and it is inspiring to see how proud they are to become productive citizens.”
Americans do an amazing amount of good around the world, but part of our strategy must also include thoughtful programs for addressing refugee issues here at home.
Walker sees an economic incentive for immigration reform, as well. “As a businessman and agricultural producer, I have friends struggling to hire legal guest workers and who find it very difficult to get visas processed,” he says. “One friend has a landscaping business and tries to hire folks the right way, legally. It took him months to put a crew together this year because he couldn’t get the visas he depends on. Meanwhile, he’s losing business and money to companies who are hiring illegally, paying cash, and not collecting taxes.”
Walker believes that an improved system for obtaining guest worker visas would provide numerous benefits. “People in Texas understand that certain parts of our economy absolutely depend on migrant labor,” he says. “A functional guest worker program would allow both businesses and workers to operate legally, which helps everyone.”