State business leaders discuss important role immigrants have in the Texas economy

Texas Politics

In this June 18, 2020, photo, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after the Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for young immigrants in Washington. Less than five months from Election Day, President Donald Trump is positioning himself as the spokesman for voters resisting a new wave of cultural change, ready to ride any backlash from the protests calling for racial equality and police reform and this week’s Supreme Court rulings extending protections to gay workers and young immigrants. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As President-elect Joe Biden announces his economic team Tuesday, Texas business leaders are discussing the impact immigrants have on our state’s economy.

In Texas, immigrants account for about 20% of the total workforce, according to the American Immigration Council.

That’s why leaders are discussing the importance of making these workers feel safe and welcome, so they continue working and contributing to our economy. During a webinar with FWD.us Tuesday, Chris Wallace, CEO of North Texas Commision, laid out foreign immigrants’ financial impact.

“We, at New American Economy, commissioned a study that showed about $38.6 billion is what immigrants pay across the state, in state and federal taxes, $113 billion they have in spending power,” Wallace explained. “That’s a huge segment of our population—workers who are vital to Texas and our North Texas economy. And so we all must work together to make sure that we are passing pro-immigration policies.”

He said that includes fixing DACA, which the Biden administration has promised to reinstate.

“There are more than 100,000 DACA recipients right here in the great state of Texas, many of those here in our region. You know, they came here chasing after the American dream. They are hard workers. They graduated from high school here are the currently in high school,” Wallace said.

Melissa Stewart, executive director of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, outlined just how important immigrants are to the service industry, specifically.

“Across America, we have about 2.3 million foreign-born workers in our industry. So that’s a tremendous number. About 43% of our chefs are foreign-born, that’s huge. Also, when you consider it, we have 24% of our managers are foreign-born, and 29% of our owners are foreign-born,” Stewart said.

She agreed with Wallace that making these workers feel safe and comfortable is first and foremost, but added our country should put immigration policies in place that will encourage more foreign workers to bring their business here.

“A good immigration reform, a better plan is going to allow more of those folks to come in and start their businesses, whether they’re brand new, or taking over a franchise when it’s just multifaceted,” Stewart added.

Stewart also wants change in terms of access to transportation and other basic needs for these workers.

“Reliable transportation is so critical. And the ability for foreign born workers to have legitimate driver’s license is a great thing that could serve folks, you know, well,” Stewart said.

Tuesday’s webinar is part of an ongoing series. The next discussions are taking place Dec. 8 and 15. Those discussions will focus on DACA’S economic and community impact, and bipartisan support for pro-immigration policies, respectively.

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