Skip to main content
Statements and ReleasesTexas News

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia and State Sen. Molly Cook Join Local Hispanic Business Leaders for Panel Discussion: “Here to Work: Immigrants Growing Houston’s Economy” 

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia and State Sen. Molly Cook Join Local Hispanic Business Leaders for Panel Discussion: “Here to Work: Immigrants Growing Houston’s Economy” 

HOUSTON — Today, the Baker Institute Center for the U.S. and Mexico, the American Business Immigration Coalition, and the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion to explore opportunities to expand work authorization for the immigrant spouses and parents of United States citizens and potential impacts on Houston’s growing economy.

Texas had over 807,000 unfilled jobs in March of this year. Meanwhile, 572,000 Houston-area residents, including 55,000 married to U.S. citizens, cannot legally work, despite paying $1.4 billion in taxes and wielding a spending power of $11.6 billion. At the event, speakers highlighted how practical solutions for workforce shortages and Houston families are critical to maintaining the Houston region’s economic competitiveness. 

This question of work authorization greatly affects vulnerable undocumented workers, 1.1 million of whom are married to U.S. citizens and have U.S. citizen children. Polling shows significant public support for providing this population with work authorization. Thus, it is time to push for a work authorization program for this population if Congress does not act. 

The panel discussion occurred as Texans await court rulings from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on SB4, which would allow law enforcement to arrest and deport residents who entered the U.S. illegally, and DACA, which protects young Americans from deportation and allows them to legally work. 

Here’s what the speakers had to say:

Juan Carlos Cerda, Texas Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition and DACA recipient:

“Thanks to a work permit, I was able to legally work as a public school teacher, obtain a driver’s license and live the American Dream. We hope President Biden and Congress will work together to expand work permits for long-term residents, including the spouses of U.S. citizens, Dreamers without DACA and residents who have paid taxes and lived in the U.S. for many years.”

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia (Precinct 2), the son of immigrants:

“In the greater Houston region, it is estimated that long-term residents pay $1.4 billion in taxes and possess nearly $15 billion in spending power. It is indisputable that this population has been paying taxes and contributing to our economy for decades while withdrawing from our respective governments far less than they contribute. Just imagine how much more they could contribute if they had reasonable access to work authorization. There is no doubt that expanding work authorization is smart and good for business.”

Chris McCarthy, Chief of Staff, Office of Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia:

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the ongoing surge in immigration will boost the U.S. economy by $7 trillion over the next decade. We must empower long-term immigrants, spouses of U.S. citizens, Dreamers and others to be a permanent part of this growth by giving them work authorization, and for Dreamers, a pathway to citizenship. By expanding our workforce, we will not only fill gaps in the labor market and grow our economy, but empower immigrants to live fruitful lives and support their families, a desire rooted in the American Dream.”

Dr. Laura Murillo, President and CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:
“For businesses, the biggest factor right now is trying to find employees. We get calls every day from small business to large corporations. We are here. We have the demographic to fill those jobs. The impact that it’s having is that many businesses are shutting down because they cannot find employees. In Houston alone hispanic consumer spending is over 54 billion per year. I don’t remember the last time anyone asked me if my money was from a person who was documented or not. They take our money one way or the other. We’re paying into the system.  We get so many calls — ‘I’m here, I’m undocumented, I have a business, I don’t know where to go, my son or daughter is graduating from high school, they’re trying to go college, where can they go?”

Jorge Avila, Member, American Families United:

“Since her green card denial, my wife and I have been forced apart. Daniela is living in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and am in Arlington, TX. Due to cartel violence and my work schedule, I can only visit her on Christmas and her birthday. President Biden said he would not separate families, but today, he continues to separate us from our loved ones, including U.S. citizen children from their parents. I call on him to expand humanitarian parole and work authorization for immigrants like my wife and allow her to return to the U.S. He should allow families like mine to live together in the only country we call home: the United States of America. ”

Yolanda Batz, Dreamer Student, University of Houston:

“The reality is that my immigration status severely limits my ability to work and achieve my dreams. I asked Memorial and Methodist hospitals about sponsoring a work visa, but they declined. I applied to every hospital I could, and they replied with emails stating that I would not be eligible to work within their systems. These challenges make it clear that expanding work authorization is crucial not only for my future but also for the countless others who are eager to contribute to our communities and economy. I hope President Biden and Congress will work on a path to legal status, or at least a work permit, for Dreamers like myself.” 

Rachel Magaziner, Associate, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C.:

“This panel brought to light one of the most significant immigrant-focused economic questions in Houston — what would it look like to expand work authorization to over 55,000 immigrant spouses married to U.S. citizens in the Houston area?” said Rachel Magaziner, attorney at Munsch Hardt. “It was an honor to sit alongside other brilliant minds and truly give this topic room for discussion.”

Emiliano Valencia, Texas Deputy Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition and DACA recipient:

“As a DACA recipient, I am an example of what long-term residents can do when provided access to work authorization. Houston’s booming economy and workforce challenges are why we are asking President Biden to expand work authorization opportunities for long-term residents who have been working and paying taxes for decades. President Biden, long-term Houston residents want to legally work and contribute to our economy. Let them.”



Here are some key facts about how immigrants make vital contributions to Texas’ economy and communities:

In addition to Texas, the U.S. economy depends upon a foreign-born labor force to alleviate national labor shortages, reduce inflation and grow by $7 trillion more over the next decade. Immigrants in the U.S. have a combined household income of $2.1 trillion and contribute $382.9 billion to federal taxes and $196.3 billion in state and local taxes, leaving them with $1.6 trillion in spending power.



American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) is a bipartisan coalition of 1,400+ CEOs, business owners, and trade associations across 17 mostly red and purple states. ABIC promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens.