Texas needs Dreamers to continue contributing to our economic growth
Legislators cannot ignore the damage that losing Dreamers would do to Texas.
By Chris Wallace Nov 14, 2019
As the chief executive of the North Texas Commission, a public-private partnership dedicated to advancing the North Texas region, I frequently tout our region’s central, easily accessible location and reasonable regulatory climate as reasons to live and work here. Another compelling argument for living and working in North Texas has been our economic vitality. In 2018, for example, we had a job growth rate of 2.8 percent and our GDP is approximately $511.6 billion.
Our talented and diverse population has been a critical factor in achieving this enviable growth. Immigration certainly contributes to our global diversity, accounting for 18.7 percent of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan population, according to a study we commissioned by the New American Economy released in July. These immigrants wielded $33.2 billion in spending power and paid $10.5 billion in local, state and federal taxes.
Among some of the most talented and educated of this group are Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. More than 92,000 Dreamers lived and worked in North Texas in 2017, according to New American Economy research, earning $1 billion and paying $199.5 million in local, state, and federal taxes. Many of these Dreamers own businesses and create jobs for the rest of us, as evidenced by the 7,220 Dreamer entrepreneurs that lived in Texas in 2015.
Unfortunately, Dreamers are at risk of losing their jobs next year. Dreamers like North Texan Juan Carlos Cerda, a former kindergarten teacher, Yale alumnus and community organizer who relies on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) for employment and identification. In September 2017, this program was rescinded, prompting multiple lawsuits and three federal court rulings that partially reinstated the program.
This week, the Supreme Court will hear the DACA case to determine if the termination of the program was lawful. If the court rules adversely on the DACA program, current recipients will lose their authorization to work and become deportable.
DACA was never meant to be a permanent solution to the shortfalls of our immigration system. Currently, 17,000 Dreamers graduate from Texas high schools every year; some of these Dreamers cannot legally work or drive because they arrived in the U.S. after 2007, were too young to apply for DACA, or did not have the financial resources to pay for DACA before the program was rescinded. These young Dreamers live in the shadows and are vulnerable to deportation.
Our legislators must not ignore the very real damage that the loss of our Dreamers would have on our economy and our region. Together with numerous business leaders, the North Texas Commission signed a letter asking our senators to pass a solution that protects Dreamers from deportation and allows them to work. We North Texans must continue leading the country in economic growth and job creation. Dreamers are a valuable part of our workforce and we must keep them in the region.
Chris Wallace is a member of the Texas Business Immigration Coalition and chief executive of the North Texas Commission. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.