Experts Say SB4 is Bad for Texas' Economy and Citizens
The 2017 Texas Legislature passed SB4 to outlaw sanctuary cities and allow police to question any person who they detain of their immigration status. While it is crucial to deter illegal immigration, experts predict that enforcement only immigration reform like SB4 will result in significant fiscal and economic consequences for Texas and its citizens.
For starters, SB4 is bad policy because it forces city and state law enforcement entities to do the federal government’s job for them at the expense of Houstonians and Texans. By requiring police officers to be part-time ICE agents, SB4 uses law enforcement’s valuable time and resources that would be better spent on prosecuting dangerous criminals.
If the goal of SB4 was really to make Texas safer, then our lawmakers should secure the border and pass legislation to provide illegal immigrants who can pass background checks with conditional pathways to earn legal status. This would allow police and ICE to focus their resources on prosecuting those who are actually looking to do us harm while providing a means for undocumented workers to be properly identified and taxed.
We absolutely need to uphold the rule of law, but our current immigration system is broken and needs to be reformed. Even at the Trump Administration’s 2017 rate of 81,603 deportations from the interior of the US, it would take almost 135 years and billions of tax dollars to try and deport all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who are in the United States today. The “deport them all” route is no longer an option.
While we should certainly prosecute and deport any illegal immigrants who commit violent or property crimes, it is too late now to try and root out the rest of the undocumented population. An attempt at this would not only be extremely impractical, but bad for the Texas economy and its citizens as well.
At 3.9% unemployment, it just doesn’t make any sense to spend millions of our tax dollars to search for, detain, and deport the undocumented that make up 8.5% of Texas' workforce.
A study on the economic impact of SB4 describes it as “a rudimentary measure that will jeopardize Texas’ economic prosperity and the quality of life of its citizens,” concluding that in Texas, illegal immigrants contribute more to state revenues than they draw out in costs, resulting in a net fiscal surplus of $702.9 million. This surplus will only increase if our law makers pass immigration reform to allow illegal immigrants who can pass background checks to earn legal status so they may be properly identified and taxed.
Furthermore, a REMI & Business Roundtable study found that an enforcement only approach to immigration reform would decrease Texas’ GDP by $78 billion over 10 years. On the other hand, it said that balanced immigration reform including border security, employment verification, and streamlining and expanding visa programs would increase Texas’ GDP by $90 billion over 10 years and create close to 1 million jobs.
Many undocumented immigrants have been here for decades and have become ingrained in the fabric of our businesses and society. As Judge Andrew Hanen said when he refused to accept AG Ken Paxton’s request to halt DACA, "Here, the egg has been scrambled…to try to put it back in the shell… does not make sense nor serve the best interests of this country.”
Instead of trying to retroactively enforce old laws that have failed to do their job, we need to pass immigration policy that will not only secure the border and enhance our national security, but grow our taxable legal workforce, and strengthen our economy. The broken status quo is no longer acceptable.