Texas immigrants are vital to the state’s success. As a state so heavily impacted by immigration policies, it would be welcoming to see our congressional leaders pass reforms that benefit Texans, the immigration process and our economy. However, lawmakers struggle to take true bipartisan action on immigration and every year they fail to cross the finish line.
At the Texas International Produce Association, we see firsthand the effect that immigrants in the Lone Star state have on ensuring that our critical industries achieve optimum success. Immigrants in our state make up 22% of the restaurant and food services industry. In the fields where we grow more than 60 different fruit and vegetable crops in Texas, a vast majority of the workers are immigrants. And as someone who worked in the fields for several years, let me tell you that American born citizens are not lining up to do this work.
In fact, the data continues to show American’s are moving away from agriculture. The United States has had various foreign worker programs going back more than 100 years to the first Braceros Program in 1917 because that’s how long Americans have not wanted to work in agriculture. Yet a full century later, Congress still cannot figure out how to solve the country’s labor needs using immigration despite millions of foreign workers literally lined up at our borders, beginning for the opportunity to work.
Immigration policy today is lagging and is, more often than not, holding both immigrants and businesses back from reaching their full potential. Even the federal agencies know this. A June 2023 report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed 9.6 million job openings with roughly 5.9 million American’s out of work. Where are we going to find the other 4 million workers if not from immigrants?
Programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) helped 98,000 Dreamers lead lives as employees, job creators and community leaders by ensuring they could work and go to school without the threat of deportation. However, DACA has been on the cusp of termination due to ongoing litigation. Yet, a majority of employers (86%) agree that DACA recipients should be able to apply for lawfully permanent resident status, according to a survey by SHRM. In the same survey, for those who currently employ or have had DACA recipients on staff, an overwhelming majority (72%) agreed that their organization would be “negatively impacted” should DACA recipients lose their work authorizations.
Without action, our essential industries could lose talent and Texas’ economy could lose $6.2 billion in annual GDP. Congress needs to provide DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals with permanent protections. Similarly, Congress must improve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections. Today, 94,000 individuals are eligible for TPS in Texas, with about two-thirds in the Texas workforce, and most already averaging 17 years in the U.S.
Thankfully, there are opportunities for action.
Bipartisan legislation like the Dignity Act, Farm Workforce Modernization Act, Dream Act, and HIRE act are all a step in the right direction. Any of these legislations could enhance the nation’s immigration system, bringing the needed workers to Texas and the U.S., improving business productivity, while changing millions of lives for the better.
After years of bipartisan debate, it is time our lawmakers came together to modernize our legal immigration system. Debate is a healthy function of democracy, but when you debate an issue for 100yrs… that’s not debate, that’s intentional lack of progress.
It’s time to take action to strengthen Texas’ workforce and economy, especially as people, families and businesses face ongoing uncertainty. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied with the level of immigration, according to a 2022 Gallup poll. Americans clearly want a change.
It’s time for Congress to quit saying no, and start saying yes to immigration. Say yes to building a stronger economy. Say yes to a stronger Texas.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Galeazzi can be reached by email via: email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Dante Galeazzi. Photo courtesy of Texas International Produce Association.
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