Dreamers help my business, and they can help yours
Updated: Feb 26
The DACA program could be terminated in the new year, causing Dreamers to be deported — a loss for the nation’s workforce and economy.
by Jim Baron
December 1, 2019
As a restaurateur, I have operated numerous businesses throughout Texas, including the TNT Tacos and Tequila restaurant in San Antonio. Most of the people I have employed, including our cooks, servers and hosts, have been immigrants, some of the most hardworking, loyal and reliable people I’ve ever known.
Over these years, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know hundreds of immigrants as employees, colleagues and customers. Some of these immigrants are Dreamers, young adults without legal status who came to the U.S. as children. Andrea Ramos Fernandez is one of them.
Fernandez is a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute alumna, founder of the UTSA Dreamer Resource Center and manager of the Texas Business Immigration Coalition, an organization I joined. She came to the U.S. when she was 9 years old and went on to graduate from Churchill High School and obtain a degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. However, unlike many of her peers, she was an undocumented student and couldn’t legally obtain a job or drive a vehicle.
It was only with the emergence of the DACA program in 2012 that Fernandez, and nearly 800,000 Dreamers like her, were able to pursue an education and career. Enacted under the Obama administration, DACA protects Dreamers from deportation and allows them to legally work. It allowed Dreamers like Fernandez to graduate from college, obtain a driver’s license and give back to her community.
Not only did DACA drastically improve the lives of its beneficiaries, but the program is also an economic boon to our economy. According to several studies, about 5,600 DACA-eligible young people live in San Antonio, and with their undocumented families, they earn $1.1 billion in income and pay $67.4 million in taxes.
But these economic contributions could be lost. Next year, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine if the Trump administration can terminate DACA. Current recipients could lose their work authorizations and face deportation if the court rules adversely on DACA, costing the Texas economy $6 billion in gross domestic product.
Without a legal way to obtain work visas, the majority of these immigrants will not have the legal right to live and work in this country. I hear many people, including our legislators, say that Dreamers should just get in line with everyone else. But with a backlog of 5 million green card applications and a limited number of temporary visas for skilled workers, the line basically does not exist. The plight of the Dreamers is one more expression of a broken immigration system that legislators need to fix. That’s why I joined the Texas Business Immigration Coalition, to elevate the voices of business leaders in promoting common sense immigration reform. Along with many business leaders from across the state, I signed a letter to our U.S. senators asking them to pass legislation that protects Dreamers from deportation and allows them to work. As Texans, we can — and must — lead the country in supporting smart policies that grow our economy, create jobs and keep families together. Jim Baron is CEO of Mesa SW Management LP and a member of the Texas Business Immigration Coalition.