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Now that is has been over one month since Hurricane Harvey brought destruction and devastation to Houston and the Texas Coast, it is time to rebuild and heal.

As Houston and the Texas Coast begin to recover, many questions still need answering in the aftermath of Harvey, that according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, may cost upwards of $180 billion.

Some estimates suggest more than 200,000 homes were damaged by the storm, and that doesn’t even include the countless businesses and commercial properties needing repair.

The biggest question is- Who is going to rebuild Texas? The answer is, probably immigrants, many of whom will be undocumented.

Texas was facing a labor shortage way before Hurricane Harvey struck. The anti-immigrant sentiment at the National and State levels have been driving immigrants and hard workers back into the shadows while some just opted to leave Texas. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, a survey of its members, conducted before Hurricane Harvey, showed 58 percent struggled to fill carpentry jobs and 53 percent were having trouble finding electricians and bricklayers.

The labor shortage is not limited to Houston. All over Texas development projects are delayed, construction jobs go-unfilled, and businesses are hurting. These delays, caused by labor shortages, carry a cost to businesses, developers, and ultimately our economy.

This labor shortage is a drag on our economy, and businesses and families are feeling it.

Texas prides itself as one of the best states to do business in. Texas’ sense of limited government, limited taxes, predictable regulation, and workforce has made our state and economy the envy of the nation. But our labor shortage and attitudes towards immigrants can bring our economy down a notch or two. For most Texans and small business owners, a lesser economy is unacceptable.

Our workforce, our people, are our greatest asset and immigrants make up 21.2 percent of the total Texas labor force. Almost half of those immigrants are undocumented. Texas immigrants work in a wide range of jobs, most heavily concentrated in education, health care, construction, and social services. Immigrants also power the state economy as job creators, small business owners, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Immigrants make up 18.4 percent of Texas business owners with paid employees13 and are self-employed at a higher rate (9.4 percent) than the Native-born population (5.8 percent).

As consumers, immigrants add billions to the Texas economy and to our state’s sales-tax based revenue system. The direct purchasing power from these sources of income for immigrants in 2015 is estimated to be between $95.5 billion and $100 billion. Every year, undocumented immigrants in Texas pay about $1.5 billion in state and local taxes.

Of the 4.3 million immigrants living in Texas, an estimated 1.7 million are undocumented – about six percent of the total Texas population. In Texas, DACA has allowed more than 124,000 young people to come forward, pass background checks, and live and work legally in the country. Ending DACA alone would cost Texas nearly $6.3 billion in annual GDP losses.

At the Federal level it is imperative that Congress pass the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship sooner rather than later. Our communities and economy will be stronger for it.

Immigrants literally build our communities and economy. And many do so from the shadows. Imagine if Texas championed our immigrants and their contributions. Imagine if we unleased the true potential of these workers. Imagine if these residents could live, work, and study out of the shadows.

Imagine the economy we can build together.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column was taken by LM Otero/Associated Press.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The U.S. currently has eleven non immigrant guest worker visa programs.
    http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/employment/temporary.html

    There is no cap on the number of workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker visa program.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/263529-funding-deal-hits-backlash-over-increase-in-worker-visas
    “The provision could more than triple the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers seeking jobs at hotels, theme parks, ski resorts, golf courses, landscaping businesses, restaurants and bars. The move is intended to boost the supply of non-agricultural seasonal workers.”

    http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Resources%20for%20Congress/Congressional%20Reports/2011%20National%20Immigration%20%26%20Consular%20Conference%20Presentations/H-2A_and_H-2B_Visas.pdf

    Alabama had to bite the bullet and hire LEGAL Immigrants for its AG Industry:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-24/africans-relocate-to-alabama-to-fill-jobs-after-immigration-law
    Africans Relocate to Alabama to Fill Jobs After Immigration Law

    “East Coast began calling Atlanta refugee agencies several months ago looking for legal immigrants to come to Alabama for a year, said Mbanfu, refugee employment director for Lutheran Services in Atlanta. He said the company would have taken as many refugees as he could refer. The agency connected East Coast with refugees who had been in the country three to five years, he said.”

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-09-13-plants_N.htm
    Immigration raids yield jobs for legal workers

    ‘When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

    But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.”

    http://bangordailynews.com/2017/04/28/business/amid-foreign-worker-shortage-bar-harbor-businesses-turn-to-local-labor/
    Amid foreign worker shortage, Bar Harbor businesses turn to local labor

  2. The Liberal Case AGAINST Illegal Immigration:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/25/the-liberal-case-against-illegal-immigration.html

    This is the Progressive Case AGAINST Illegal Immigration:

    http://www.salon.com/2015/03/01/the_1_percents_immigration_con_how_big_business_adds_to_income_inequality_pits_workers_against_each_other/

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/notes-on-immigration/
    The Conscience Of A Liberal–Paul Krugman

    “First, the benefits of immigration to the population already here are small.
    ” But as Mr. Hanson explains in his paper, reasonable calculations suggest that we’re talking about very small numbers, perhaps as little as 0.1 percent of GDP.

    “My second negative point is that immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand…

    “Finally, the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear. ”

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DEFDC1430F934A15750C0A9609C8B63

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/immigrants-different-audacity-hope/2014/11/17/id/607937/
    Report: Obama’s Book Says Illegals Can Hurt Americans

    http://beforeitsnews.com/opinion-conservative/2014/11/didnt-anyone-in-the-hispanic-media-read-obamas-book-2936030.html
    Didn’t anyone in the Hispanic media read Obama’s book? Or listen to when he speaks?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idvRtDDPl_4
    Barack Obama in his own words from “The Audacity of Hope”
    – Illegal Immigration hurts Black Americans and Blue Collared Workers

    Video Not Working? I wonder why?!? Here’s an Audio Link:
    http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/16/shock-flashback-obama-says-illegal-immigration-hurts-blue-collar-americans-strains-welfare-video/

  3. An Atlantic Monthly article that shows that most economists’ thinking that an increased influx of immigrants provides more jobs for Americans is FALSE and does harm jobs for US workers and the economy:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/does-immigration-harm-working-americans/384060/

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DEFDC1430F934A15750C0A9609C8B63

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/notes-on-immigration/
    The Conscience Of A Liberal–Paul Krugman

    “First, the benefits of immigration to the population already here are small.”
    ” But as Mr. Hanson explains in his paper, reasonable calculations suggest that we’re talking about very small numbers, perhaps as little as 0.1 percent of GDP.

    “My second negative point is that immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand…

    “Finally, the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear. ”

    Also, it is patently untrue that “immigrants” are the solution to low rate of start-ups:

    http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/01/immigration-reform-declining-start-rate.html