OpEd: Congress Should Protect DACA and Texas’ Immigrant Workers
Texas Border Trade
By Amy Graham
Immigrants are a crucial part of Texas’ workforce that we cannot afford to lose, and we must work to attract and retain more immigrants into our workforce and communities. However, our corrupt immigration system, which has not been significantly updated in three decades, is holding us back.
Our lawmakers must take a long and hard look at immigration policies, which play a huge role in the development and longevity of the workforce, and reform them to work better for Texans and the entire nation. This is especially important at a time when the US labor market is trying to fill it. More than 11 million open positions.
Currently in Texas more than 3 million foreign national workers support key sectors of the state – this about a quarter our workforce. An important avenue for these contributions is through employment-based visa programs that help fill gaps. worker occupations such as landscaping, agriculture, construction and manufacturing. Streamlining the immigration process to secure employment-based visas for migrant workers while ensuring that these systems include a pathway to permanent status will provide greater certainty for the future of our workforce and the American economy as a whole.
For example, the landscape industry is one of the largest nationwide users of H-2B visas, which are used to obtain temporary foreign workers to meet seasonal worker needs where there are not enough American workers. These visas allow seasonal businesses to hire short-term workers from other countries to meet the demand for workers in the accommodation, landscaping and other sectors. Unless the H-2B visa program is reformed to fix the cap on the number of returning workers with a permanent returning worker exemption, seasonal businesses will have to turn away customers, reduce services and, in some cases, lay off US national workers. .
As we build a stronger economy, we must retain international talent that can make us more competitive. An estimated annual 100,000 International students graduating from US colleges and universities want to stay and contribute to the US, but cannot do so due to their immigration status. To provide these students with a way to stay in the USA, Hundreds of billions of dollars into the US economy and strengthen the US position in the global talent race.
To achieve an intuitive and humane immigration system that caters to these workforce needs, we must remove the system-clogging bureaucracy and outdated policies. Doing so would also help deter the judiciary from playing a large role in immigration policy, which Congress must act on.
A decision was recently made by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unlawful. While existing DACA beneficiaries may continue to renew their status, the 5th Circuit referred the case back to US District Judge Andrew Hanen, who had a strong position against the policy.
In addition to the humanitarian concerns of ending DACA, the state would also suffer economic setbacks after investing in these people. DACA recipients contribute to the US economy by: $11.7 billion annually with those eligible for deportation protections and work permits under the contributing policy. $963.4 million on local, state and federal taxes each year. Revoking the policy would be costly for industries such as nursery and landscaping and others that are key to Texas’ economic success. In fact, on average we will see 800 job losses per month for building and floor workers this will probably continue every month for two years.
Lawmakers should consider and pass significant reforms to the U.S. immigration system that will allow states like Texas to maintain access to workers to fill critical seasonal and long-term jobs. This includes Congress acting in a bipartisan fashion to create a path to naturalization for Dreamers that provides them with long-term certainty. If implemented properly, a system like this can scale with our country and provide a steady supply of competitive labor in our market, promoting growth and full employment in a thriving and prosperous economy.
The time for these simple legislative solutions is long past. It’s time for Texas leaders in the House and Senate to work across the corridor today to fix our immigration system. The fate of our great state and nation is at stake.
Amy Graham is President and CEO of the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.
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