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Clear a path to citizenship for immigrants

This article by TAB President & CEO Glenn Hamer was originally published by the San Antonio Express-News.

Immigrant Heritage Month is personal for me. My wife is an immigrant from Israel, as is her immediate family, and my children are dual citizens. The love, passion, desire to contribute to the United States and appreciation for the opportunity to do so is palpable. It’s also inspiring to me as a third-generation American. It reminds me how lucky I am to be in the greatest country in the history of the world.

The fact that the best, brightest and hardest-working people on the planet want to emigrate to the United State is an advantage for our country, even more so when most of the West — including the U.S. — is experiencing birth rates well below the levels needed to replace our population.

Yet Congress has not passed legislation to enable people to legally come to this country for more than a generation. The original “Top Gun” came out in 1986, the same year Congress last passed serious immigration reform.

We need legislation that can attract broad bipartisan support, such as the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, that includes border security, refugee and asylum solutions.

Photo featured in San Antonio Express-News, J. Scott Applewhite, STF / Associated Press

We also need solutions for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came here at a young age and have only known this country as home. June 15 marked the 10-year anniversary of the enactment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy. Today, the DACA-eligible population in Texas’ major metropolitan areas contributes well over $655 million in federal, state and local taxes.

If the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals passes down a negative outcome in the State of Texas v. United States — which is anticipated this fall — DACA would cease to exist. Considering there are two jobs open in the U.S. for every one individual out of work, pulling DACA recipients out of the labor force would worsen supply chain woes and inflation, and could even tip our country into recession. Ideally, DACA recipients, and all Dreamers, should have the chance to become citizens.

There is substantial support for federal legislation that permanently shields Dreamers from deportation. The American Dream and Promise Act passed the House with bipartisan support last year and would provide DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants with pathways to U.S. citizenship. The bipartisan Dream Act — a Senate bill supported by 71 percent of the U.S. public — would offer similar protections for young immigrants.

Everyone should be able to recognize the sizable impact immigrants have on various service sectors, especially during the pandemic. Today, immigrants make up nearly a quarter of Texas’ labor force. They represent large shares of several essential industries in our state, from manufacturing to landscaping, to building services and food processing. Texas depends on hardworking immigrants to grow our economy. We simply cannot take this vital population for granted.

There is no shortage of opportunity to reform our immigration system. We need to think about the people who have contributed to our economy, who help the U.S. compete against its adversaries, and we need to think about the future of our workforce. Let’s start with what’s possible, and honor Immigrant Heritage Month in a meaningful and lasting way.


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