By: Katie Greer, Director of Communications & Brand Operations The Texas Association of Business launched its immigration webinar series on the economic impact of immigration. As the state’s economy continues to grow and more businesses move to Texas, immigrants are needed to fill crucial gaps in the workforce.
The conversation was moderated by Chelsie Kramer, the Texas State Organizer for the American Immigration Council and the Council’s Texas business coalition on immigration, Texans for Economic Growth, which the Texas Association of Business is a steering committee member of. She shared the following statistics:
· 4,948,998 immigrants call Texas home
· Immigrants make up 17.1% of Texas’ population;
· They pay $40.6B in state, local, and federal taxes annually;
· There are 389,165 immigrant entrepreneurs
· And Texas immigrants hold a spending power of $120.3B
Chelsie underlined that immigrants are contributing immensely to our workforce and economy. They are not taking American jobs, but rather working in occupations that employers have historically struggled to fill such as landscaping, personal services, and construction – such as roofing, drywall installation, reinforcing iron and rebar, manicurists, etc.
Panelists included Charles Foster and Stan Marek. Charles is the Chairman of Foster LLP, vice chair of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations. He previously served as Senior Immigration Policy Advisor for President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Stan President and CEO of Marek Brothers, Rational Middle on Immigration benefactor, and co-author, with Loren C. Steffy, of “Deconstructed: An Insider’s View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades.” All speakers agreed that Senator John Cornyn has worked tirelessly to address immigration reform, but political will has made progress difficult. Charles Foster explained that, sometimes, members of political parties can limit conversations on immigration reform to oversimplified slogans: “build the wall” or “wide open borders.” A more nuanced conversation would allow people to see that we can address workforce needs and maintain public safety/order at border crossings simultaneously. It should not be the case that the best and brightest member of a graduating class, let’s say, with a STEM degree, cannot get a job in the U.S. due to visa limits. The U.S. cannot afford to lose that kind of talent.
Stan Marek says it is a lack of sensible immigration policies that encourages undocumented workers to work contracted jobs instead of W-2 positions. When there are employers wiling to skirt around the tax and labor laws, you will have workers doing the same. Meanwhile, there are honest individuals, some of his best workers, who are doing everything they can to work lawfully. Marek advocates for some sort of provision that allows employers to go out and recruit undocumented workers, pay for a background check, secure some sort of ID and then allow them to work under a W-2 status. That would be tremendous boon to employer and our economy.
This is an issue shared by numerous industries. There is a severe, ongoing labor shortage, and yet there are barriers to hiring readily available talent. Congress knows this is a problem, but they would be more likely to act if they knew the business community is on their side.
Sensible immigration reform is the answer.
You can find how immigrants are affecting Texas, your county, or congressional district at MaptheImpact.org.
You can also check out this new fact sheet the Texas Association of Business partnered on releasing last month on the economic impact immigrants are having in Texas here: The Economic Contributions of Immigrants in Texas - The Key Role Immigrants Play in Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Education.