McALLEN, RGV – La Unión del Pueblo Entero held a press conference on Tuesday with local business owners to discuss the economic consequences of Senate Bill 4 and how it’s currently affecting the Rio Grande Valley.
As the bill is set to go into effect on September 1, LUPE, along with the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA) Network, organized several press conferences across the state of Texas to examine the economic effect of SB 4 in local communities.
The press conference, held at the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in McAllen, focused on business owners already experiencing the repercussions of SB 4 with the decline in sales and investments in the community.
SB 4 would require local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration authorities and allow police to ask for the immigration status of those they detain. The bill would also impose civil penalties on local officials if they do not cooperate with federal immigration law.
Martha Sanchez, the community organizing coordinator at LUPE, began the press conference by explaining the purpose was to highlight how local businesses were being affected by the controversial bill.
“In a month from today, the SB4 bill will come into force, and this is why we are making a stop today in our activities to see how this law is already affecting businesses in Texas, even before starts,” Sanchez said. “It’s causing damages into the Valley and the State of Texas.”
SB 4 is expected to cost the state of Texas 165,000 to 248,000 jobs and a loss of $9.2- $13.8 billion in investments.
The bill would also cut state and local revenues by $220-335 million, according to an analysis report by the RITA Network, which examined the economic effects of Arizona’s anti-immigration bill SB 1070.
Cynthis Vargas, owner of Pac Insurance, sells auto insurance to undocumented immigrants who don’t have drivers licenses. She says she’s been feeling the effect of SB 4 because clients are afraid of purchasing auto insurance, and notes a decline in clientele.
“I have been tasting the impacts from the SB4 Bill on a daily basis. This is because a 70 percent of my clients are illegal immigrants. But this law is not only affecting them but us too (the business owners). When I ask my clients why they don’t want to come, they tell me they are afraid. The clients tell me they are afraid of going outside. They said they do want to pay their insurance policy, but they are afraid.”
Vargas notes since the passage of SB 4, she’s had to close two locations in the Valley.
“We had three locations, everything was going great, there was a lot of business, when this started, when they started talking about SB 4, it was approved that they were going to pass it, customers just feared,” Vargas said. “They don’t want to drive anymore, they’re selling their vehicles, they just don’t want to go out there. What happened? We stopped selling, there’s no production, we had to close down two locations, I’m down to one.”
The owner of Charlie Tires in Rio Grande City, Carlos Garcia, began his tire repair shop over 15 years ago, but says he had to recently learn a new skill to keep his business afloat; becoming a mechanic overnight.
“I am here to say ‘no’ to the SB4 because it does affect everybody,” Garcia said. “Before we used to pay a lot of taxes to the government, but now we don’t because we don’t sell as much as we used to. It does affect our businesses. I want to tell Mr. Trump that this is not beneficial to the border, but on the contrary is a pressure for us who live here at the border.”
Garcia contributed the decline in business to the militarization of the border, especially after SB 4. He says the presence of law enforcement only scares customers away.
“We do have a huge problem in Rio Grande City because there’s a lot of militarization, many law enforcement agents that have arrived at the border town,” Garcia said.
“The economy has been affected because no one wants to go out. The (DPS) officers get in front of the businesses, and if someone goes and tell them to move, that they are scaring the potential customers…. It’s a huge pressure toward us. Local people don’t want to go out, and customers from Mexico no longer cross either.”
Dolly Elizondo, owner of E Real Estate Depot, said real estate developers and homebuyers are hesitant on building new subdivisions or buying new homes. She says this has already affected her business plan.
“Developers who buy land and subdivide into lots have held back,” Elizondo said. “Everyone is waiting to see what the results are going to be from SB 4. And I’m in that position because I do that. I buy land and I develop lots for first time home buyers, for third time home buyers, for nationals that are going to move here, and our business plan has ended for those projects right now because of the discriminatory effect that’s happening.”
Elizondo added that there’s also been a decline in commercial pad sites sales, which is a large portion of her business.
“I’d say probably, used to be 40 percent, of our clients that bought the commercial pad sites, they’re no longer here in my experience. And if they are its very minimal, they’re holding back on opening businesses. People with existing business are looking into leaving, they want to sell everything and go back to Mexico where they’re welcomed.
San Antonio news conference
Meanwhile, at a news conference in San Antonio, the claim was made that SB 4 would shrink the Texas economy by between $9.2 billion and $13.8 billion and that it would cause job losses ranging from 165,000 to 248,000. The claims were made by the Texas Together Campaign, a coalition of community and business leaders across the state, and based on a study produced by RITA using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
The Texas Together Campaign said the loss of state and local tax revenues would be between $220 million and $235 billion per year.
“SB4 is not only a discriminatory law that will profile people of color, but it is also bad for business, as it will drive Texans away, creating job losses and decreased revenue,” said Adriana Cadena, coordinator of Texas Together.
Ramiro A. Cavazos, President & CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said: “This economic miracle, job creation… ss in danger of being brought to its knees by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. These are dishonorable people who are representing us in Austin and Washington.”
Among the prominent business leaders who spoke at the news conferences were Max Navarro, chairman of Operational Technologies, an international firm; and Frank Herrera, an attorney and Tier 1 Toyota supplier, who spoke of being the son of undocumented immigrants and of the economic impact SB 4 will have.
“It’s not honorable. It’s racist,” Herrera said of the racial profiling law.
Navarro called on San Antonio’s largest businesses, including HEB, Valero and USAA , to break their silence and call on state leaders to repeal SB 4.
“We’re brown, we may look different, but we’re still Americans,” Navarro added.
The coalition urged Texans to stand together against discriminatory laws and legislation by calling on national groups to support the campaign to repeal SB 4. Specifically, businesses are being asked to show their support by placing their business logos on the Texas Together website, sending letters to legislative leaders calling for repeal of SB 4, and
The The Texas Together Campaign is asking companies to display “We Support Texas Together” window decals at their places of business to show opposition to SB 4. The group is also asking companies in the Lone Star State to show their support by placing their business logos on the Texas Together website. The group also suggests sending letters to legislative leaders calling for repeal of SB 4. Local, regional, and state governments can help by passing resolutions condemning the Texas racial profiling law, the Texas Together Campaign said.
Texas Together combines the collective economic and political power of businesses and communities to win the repeal of SB 4. The group held news conferences in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Houston, and McAllen on Tuesday. Business groups that participated in Tuesday’s news conferences included the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Houston First, Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Bilateral African American Chamber, and the United Chamber of Commerce Corpus Christi.
Editor’s Note: Reporter Esmeralda Torres contributed to this story from San Antonio, Texas.