AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick, who has promised a tougher line on illegal immigration, insisted Wednesday that a former employee at his sports bar never told him that he wasn’t authorized to work in the United States.
Miguel “Mike” Andrade said he told the Houston state senator in the 1980s that he was in the country illegally, in a story first reported by the Dallas Morning News and Houston’s KTRK television. But Patrick issued a statement insisting Andrade never told him about his immigration status.
Border security and illegal immigration are the top issues among Republican primary voters, according to internal polling by the campaigns, and no two candidates in the lieutenant governor’s race draw a stronger contrast than Patrick and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
Patrick has introduced bills in the Texas Legislature requiring local police and sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law, a measure opposed by many major city police chiefs. Patrick has called those who cross the U.S. border illegally an “illegal invasion” and accused them of being terrorists who carry tropical diseases into the country.
Patterson has sought an expanded guest worker program to legally meet the state’s need for inexpensive, foreign labor. Patterson acknowledged hiring a private investigator who contacted Andrade and then provided the information to the news organizations. He said he wanted to demonstrate Patrick’s hypocrisy.
“Texas deserves a straight shooter in the office of lieutenant governor. Time and again, Dan Patrick has proven his unwillingness or inability to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about himself and about others,” Patterson said in a statement.
Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s campaign consultant, said Patrick did not know of anyone working for him without authorization, and that Patterson’s effort to talk about something that happened 30 years ago highlights his complaint that Patrick is wrong on immigration issues.
“Dan and Jerry have a difference in opinion on immigration positions,” he said. “That’s what Jerry’s trying to point out.”
Andrade said he provided a false social security card and green card when he was hired by managers Nick’s Sports Market in Houston, one of five sports bars Patrick co-owned. Patrick said he remembered Andrade as “affable young man and seemed to be a good and conscientious worker.”
“I can assure you that every employee completed a W-4 prior to becoming employed,” Patrick said in a statement. “I know this because my mother was our bookkeeper, and she was, and still is, a stickler for the rules. Everyone was hired and paid in accordance with regularly accepted business practices of the time.”
There was no central federal database to check a person’s immigration status in the 1980s and employers relied on the apparent authenticity of documents supplied by the job applicant. However, many food service and construction businesses relied heavily on immigrant labor at the time and employers didn’t face penalties until a federal law passed in 1986.
Andrade said Patrick wrote him a reference letter when he applied for citizenship under the 1986 law, which included an amnesty provision, and he became a citizen in 1992. Patrick said he does not recall writing a letter for Andrade, but has been a vocal opponent of immigration proposals that provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million people working in the United States illegally.
Patrick’s rhetoric has upset Andrade, who said it doesn’t reflect the man who employed him.
“He’s changed,” Andrade told the Dallas Morning News. “He is trying to make a division, to . look at us like something that is not good for this country, something negative for this country.”
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