Every day, I go to work to make our region and economy stronger. At the North Texas Commission, we use innovation and partnerships to grow and promote what is one of the best places in the country to live and do business. Our communities are fueled by determined people who work to improve their lives and the lives of others. Many have settled in Texas seeking freedom from other countries without the same opportunities we are fortunate to have in America. Texas’ more than 4.9 million immigrants make our state and economy stronger; however, years of anti-immigrant policies have failed to recognize their important impact on society. It is past due time for a redirect.
With the new administration and Congress, there is enormous opportunity to reshape immigration policies that affect every Texan. While our elected officials often acknowledge our nation’s antiquated and broken immigration system, they infrequently implement immigration policies that reflect the needs of the people, our economy and the immigrant community. Luckily, the Texas I know is good at coming together and utilizing public-private partnerships to find innovative solutions to the problems facing our state, whether socially or economically.
The Trump administration’s positions on immigration pulled families apart and discouraged foreign talent from participating in our economy, even at a time when we needed all hands on deck to respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. While a majority of the people rejected his immigration stance, we are now left in the aftermath with the challenging task of rebuilding — this includes providing a pathway to citizenship for those already living and contributing to our country, especially Dreamers and those serving on the frontlines of COVID-19 response efforts.
Today, more than 100,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program call Texas home. After coming to Texas at a young age, these Dreamers are contributing to our workforce and economy in impactful ways. Nationwide, this group now represents more than 200,000 essential workers and 30,000 health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight. Their contributions have been met, however, with fear and uncertainty of their future in our country due to ongoing attempts to terminate the program, despite widespread, bipartisan support for a permanent DACA solution. As it stands, Texas Judge Andrew Hanen is still set to issue a decision that could still impact DACA even though President Biden has temporarily protected the program through executive action.
Our immigrant population is one of the largest in the country, with one in six residents being an immigrant, and their contributions to our state are equally as large. Texan immigrants pay more than $38.6 billion in state and federal taxes per year, and they hold $112.8 billion in spending power. At a time when our economy needs all the stimulation it can get, this revenue and spending are critical. Outside of financial contributions, immigrants are also powering vital sectors of our workforce that are helping us recover from the disastrous side effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, almost 21% of our state’s nurses are foreign born, and more than 25% of all Texas STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — workers are immigrants. Additionally, Texas’ food supply chain is supported by more than 225,000 undocumented immigrants. There will be no recovery without the help of our immigrant neighbors.
With President Biden at the helm, I hope we can find common ground in support for immigrants and our shared pursuit of the American dream. And we’re seeing this tide turn with the formation of a new initiative, the Texas Opportunity Coalition, supported by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, which I believe harkens a new bipartisan support.
Texans value family, entrepreneurship, determination and hard work. Immigrants across Texas are our neighbors and friends, employees and customers, entrepreneurs and leaders. We need them to help us continue to make our region one of the best in the country. And right now, they need the help of leaders across all levels who understand the importance of sensible immigration policy to keep the American Dream alive and help our economy thrive. We need immigration solutions that work for Texans; this includes providing a pathway to citizenship for our nation’s Dreamers and the undocumented community.