As the CEO/Principal of Villa Realty Group in The Woodlands, an upscale master-planned community in Houston, longtime Republican Roy Villarreal, Jr. makes his living developing commercial properties with partners — and most of those partners are Mexicans, to whom he has sold a number of million-dollar homes. “These guys enjoy living here in The Woodlands,” Villarreal says. “They’re affluent, and they don’t need much. They like investing in the United States. They like the life here, they feel safe here. Some are here on visas, some have green cards, and a good amount are working toward citizenship.”
Villarreal also operates a commercial construction business in Montgomery County, and again some of his best clients are from Mexico. “This is a wealthy group of people who are big on real estate, big on entrepreneurship,” he says. “They’re bringing their investments and opening businesses here, and buying million-dollar homes at the same time.”
My heart goes out to the families who came over here illegally.
Clearly the United States benefits from wealthy immigrants, but Villarreal believes that poorer, undocumented immigrants also have their place in the economy and in communities. “My heart goes out to the families who came over here illegally,” and are now ingrained in a life here, Villarreal says. “I can walk down my street and it’s all Mexicans mowing, cleaning. And I would guess that about 70 percent are not here legally. You go to a hotel, and it’s the same thing. The thought of sending them back? That’s going to be difficult on them and us.”
Villarreal is in favor of strong border protection, but he also believes the federal government needs to address the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. “Give them a status, make them legal,” he says. While many undocumented immigrants do have income taxes deducted from their paychecks, just under a false name, “People get upset thinking all illegals are getting by on their nickel,” says Villarreal. “So if we make them legal, give them a Social Security card, it would make things a lot better.”