Why Texas Businesses Need the Dream and Promise Act
Authored by Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Texas Association of Business
Earlier this year, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act, many Texan business owners felt cautiously optimistic. Their undocumented Dreamer employees were one step closer to permanent residency. With that, thousands of young nurses, teachers, hospitality workers and store clerks could stop worrying about deportation and commit fully to the work at hand.
As CEO of the Texas Association of Business, I know that DACA-eligible youngsters make enormous contributions to the Texan economy. They represent $3.2 billion in spending power and pay almost $1 billion in taxes each year. In fact, new data published by New American Economy reveals just how crucial DACA recipients’ tax dollars are to local communities across our state. In Austin, for instance, 13,586 young DACA holders collectively pay $74.7 million a year in taxes. In both Houston and Dallas, DACA-eligible workers pay over a quarter-billion dollars a year in taxes. Even in smaller communities like McAllen and El Paso, DACA-eligible employees pay tens of millions of dollars a year in taxes.
And of course, the Dreamers are also smart, resourceful, reliable employees on whom our state’s businesses depend. Texas’s 200,000 Dreamers have intelligence and resourcefulness in spades. They are reliable too—but only so far as immigration policy allows them to be. Those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections must regularly renew their status, and they often face bureaucratic hiccups that leave them unable to work for weeks or months. Worse still, the DACA program can be revoked with a pen-stroke; neither these Dreamers nor their employers know if their lawful status might end with the next administration or a court ruling.
It's a terrible situation, which is why I urge the Senate to pass the Dream and Promise Act. At stake is the future of our country’s 1.25 million Dreamers, but also the long-term growth and stability of the businesses that employ them. Among the general public, this is not a partisan issue: almost two-thirds of Texans, including a plurality of Republicans, support keeping the Dreamers here. It’s high time the Senate started listening to its constituents.
Just as Dreamers add to the economy, deporting them would take a $6.1 billion bite out of the Lone Star State’s GDP and rob Texan businesses of vital young workers at a crucial moment in our economic recovery. With more than 95% of DACA-eligible youngsters now gainfully employed, we’re increasingly reliant on them to blunt the impact of labor shortages that local employers say constrain growth and depress revenue.
Passing the Dream and Promise Act would counteract these deficits: enabling these young workers to put down roots in their home communities, purchase houses, raise families and continue contributing for decades to come. The Dreamers have already launched more than 8,700 businesses across our state, creating jobs for everyone; many are also highly educated, and bring the skills and diverse perspectives that Texas needs to compete in the global marketplace.
That’s why the Texas Association of Business has joined Texans for Economic Growth, a coalition of over 105 business leaders and industry groups from across our state that are calling on Congress to help Dreamers. I recently moderated a meeting between Sen. Cornyn and over 100 leaders representing everyone from small-town businesses to Fortune 500 corporations. Together we made clear that Texas is a global economic powerhouse because of our immigrant population, not despite it, and that we need to develop a stable workforce that employers can rely on as they plan for future growth.
Dreamers are our neighbors, friends, employees, and co-workers. They’ve shown their commitment to our communities, and their determination to build a productive future for themselves. It’s past time for Congress to give these young people a path to citizenship.