AUSTIN, TX — On Wednesday, FWD.us hosted its 2021 Texas Immigration Webinar with Texas business leaders and impacted individuals on the critical need for Congress to enact immigration reform to boost the state’s business environment, communities, and economy. Across Texas, undocumented immigrants are playing an outsized role in the state’s workforce and economy, bringing a sense of urgency for Congress to pass transformative immigration reform that allows immigrants to adjust their legal status and find relief so they can continue contributing to society.
In Texas, there are 4.7 million immigrants, and millions of U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented immigrant, who are feeling the mental and physical impact of our nation’s broken immigration system. If granted citizenship, undocumented Texans would further expand their already immense contributions to the Lone Star State to the tune of $58.5 million in annual economic contributions and $12 billion in annual state and local taxes. Further, more than 930,000 undocumented immigrant essential workers — or 55 percent of our entire undocumented population — are contributing to essential COVID-19 response industries. This includes an estimated 30,600 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in Texas who are also working essential jobs and risking their own health and safety so that we can emerge stronger from this pandemic.
During Wednesday’s webinar, FWD.us Texas State Immigration Director Zaira Garcia began the conversation by providing a state of play update as Senate Democrats and the White House work to include transformative immigration relief as part of the reconciliation package. Zaira also emphasized the significant contributions of Texas undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and undocumented essential workers, who are contributing billions to our economy, yet are stuck in a legal limbo and in need of immigration relief.
Attendees heard from DACA recipient Javier Quiroz Castro shared his story as a COVID-19 nurse and one of the 106,000 DACA recipients who have built their lives in the Lone State and whom our communities, businesses and economies rely on. As representatives of the diverse business communities across Texas, Sergio Contreras, president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, addressed the impact of immigration in South Texas; Glenn Hamer, president and CEO the Texas Association of Business, touched on how increased opportunities for work permits and protected status of immigrants could affect Texas’ labor force; and Melissa Stewart, executive director of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, highlighted the value of immigrant workers to the Texas restaurant industry. Additionally, Justin Yancy, president of the Texas Business Leadership Council, underscored the economic impact of DACA recipients and the detrimental loss Texas could face should we lose these individuals.
While bills such as the bipartisan, Senate-passed Dream Act could bring relief to certain undocumented immigrants and Congress debates immigration reform as part of the reconciliation bill, the fight for a pathway for undocumented immigrants, families, and our economy isn’t over.
A full recording of Wednesday’s event can be viewed here. Participant quotes from the webinar are below:
“Like me, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and Dreamers across the United States only want to continue to live, work, and raise a family in the only country we have ever known. I am thankful for the opportunities America has given me and my family since I came here when I was three years old, and I’m proud now to give back to my community as a nurse. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been working on the frontlines in one of Houston’s busiest hospitals – sacrificing my own safety, the safety of my wife, and the safety of our two-year-old daughter while taking care of patients. I’m one of five million other undocumented essential workers who are absolutely critical in our nation’s continued response and economic recovery from COVID-19. It is my sincere hope that Congress and the White House can work together to pass a permanent legislative solution that allows DACA recipients to find relief.” – Javier Quiroz Castro, DACA Recipient & COVID-19 Nurse
“One of the great advantages of America is that the best, brightest and hardest working people on the planet want to come to our country and make the greatest country in the history of the world, even greater. Continuing DACA would do just that by alleviating worker shortages that are hurting Texas employers — and allowing DACA recipients to continue contributing to our local communities. With our economic recovery at stake, TAB urges Congress to act swiftly, continue DACA and provide a permanent solution for these hardworking recipients.” – Glenn Hamer, President & CEO, Texas Association of Business
“In Texas, you can find a restaurant with food inspired from just about every region in the world. This can be largely attributed to the fact that many restaurants are owned and operated by immigrants or children of immigrants who share their culture and contribute to the diversity that Texas’ economy and communities grow stronger from. The entrepreneurs and business owners in the restaurant industry have been working and adapting to an extremely difficult situation for more than a year and a half. They can’t wait any longer for congressional action on immigration reform that could deliver some relief to the labor force that they desperately need to keep their doors open.” – Melissa Stewart, Executive Director, Greater Houston Restaurant Association
“Here at the Texas Business Leadership Council, we have been persistently vocal about the critical need for Congress to bring immigration relief to the 390,000 Texas Dreamers who came to the U.S. at a young age and know no other place as home. The entire Dreamer population in Texas adds $7.3 billion to our economy and pays $900 million in federal taxes as well as hundreds of millions in other state and local taxes which helps to fund our infrastructure, schools, emergency response programs, and more. They’re also business owners, entrepreneurs and innovators, helping to diversify Main Street and create jobs. Immigration reform that allows them to adjust their legal status will build a more reliable workforce and stimulate economic growth. To move our state forward, we need our leaders in Washington to recognize the potential that we have seen in them all along.” – Justin Yancy, President, Texas Business Leadership Council