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Houston Mayor Whitmire Joins Business and Community Leaders to Celebrate DACA’s 12th Anniversary and President Biden’s Action to Support Long-Term Residents

By June 25, 2024No Comments

WATCH here. PICTURES here.

Jesus Contreras, paramedic and DACA recipient: This will “help a lot of DACA recipients and Dreamers.”

HOUSTON — Today, Houston Mayor John Whitmire, CEO of Marek Bros. Construction Stan Marek, and Amegy Bank CEO Steve Stephens joined the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) for a press conference to celebrate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ (DACA) 12th Anniversary and the Biden-Harris administration’s historic action granting work permits to long-term residents, highlighting the significant impact that Dreamers and mixed-status families have on the economy. Impacted families, advocates and business leaders praised the Biden-Harris administration’s announcement on keeping American families together. Speakers emphasized how this action is good policy, good politics and good for the Texas economy.

Dreamers, elected officials, business leaders and advocates showcased how Dreamers have benefited Houston’s economy and how Biden’s new policy will shield long-term residents from exploitation while growing the city’s workforce. In Houston, Dreamers paid $255.4 million in taxes and wielded $846.2 million in spending power. In addition, undocumented residents earn $290 billion in household income and contribute over $21.5 and $13.6 billion in state and local taxes with a combined spending power of $254.8 billion

Here are their statements:

Mayor John Whitmire, City of Houston: 

“It is so rewarding to share this occasion with civic, business, individuals, chamber leaders, participants in the Dream Act because this is special. This is a day of celebration, but it’s also a day of challenge. We’ve come so far, certainly with DACA and the Dream Act, but we have so far to go. So let’s all rededicate ourselves to that population that is making Houston the great city it is. This nation and state benefits from this talent pool. We’ve heard from business leaders that we need additional personnel. We need talented, intellectual folks that can bring their life experiences to help others.”

Dr. Jobi Martinez, Chief Diversity Officer of the Harris Health System: 

“I applaud President Biden’s recent executive order to expand work permits for Dreamers and spouses of U.S. citizens. It is a significant step forward. And as you’ve heard previous speakers talk about the shortages in our workforce, the health workforce is not immune to this as well. We currently face significant labor shortages with 8.7 million job openings, but only 6.4 million unemployed workers. This disparity leaves nearly 2.4 million positions unfilled, if every unemployed person found a job. 

“We are also affected here in Texas, with employers, as you’ve just heard, in key industries struggling to find the workforce they need. The issue is especially critical for the healthcare workforce sector, where labor shortages can directly affect patient care and public health. Access to work authorization and a path to legal status for Dreamers are critical to addressing our shortages, maintaining Houston’s competitiveness and keeping Houston families together. I urge lawmakers in Congress to advance this much needed policy to help our Houston area residents.”

Steve Stephens, CEO of Amegy Bank and Chair, Greater Houston Partnership
Immigration Task Force

“The most important thing in any society is an underlying healthy economy, to create jobs. That solves a lot of problems. Today, more than any other time in my career of over 50 years is that every employer says, ‘I need a growing workforce, qualified and available. That’s a universal demand, certainly in Texas. DACA is the epitome of a pragmatic solution, because you’ve got educated, driven youth who, for whatever reason, don’t have the documentation we’ve seen at a lot of vocational schools and other places where you’ve got qualified youth, and the only thing that stops them at the very end is they’re not documented. They can’t get a good job. That’s not pragmatic, that’s not smart and that’s why we need to keep pushing good, pragmatic solutions.”

Jesus Contreras, DACA recipient and paramedic with the Montgomery County Hospital District: 

“I want to thank the President for recently [announcing] this rule that would help a lot of DACA recipients and Dreamers. […] I am a long-time Tejano. I’ve been here over 24 years. I’ve given my life to this country. I am no longer a kid like we used to describe us DACA recipients. I am now a 30-year-old man with a wife who depends on me, with a family that depends on me. Please give us the opportunity to continue to work. My ask is for Congress and the administration to pass permanent legislative solutions to resolve these issues that we have. This is not only for us DACA recipients — this is for Texans, this is for U.S. citizens. Let’s make some common sense laws happen.”

Yolanda Batz, Dreamer nursing student at the University of Houston ineligible to apply for DACA: 

“My journey has been shaped by my immigration status, which has impacted both my career and life aspirations. I graduated from B.F. Terry High School, despite my undocumented status. When I turned 15, I was eligible for DACA but due to President Trump’s rulings and a Texas federal judge, I was unable to apply. This meant that my access to financial aid and certain academic opportunities were limited. For example, although I was accepted to The University of Texas College of Nursing, I was unable to attend due to insufficient funding. My life aspirations include being a nurse practitioner and helping others through nursing. I want to help break barriers for others with health care access. […] Employers now have an easier way to sponsor work visas for Dreamers, like myself.”

Jorge Avila, U.S. citizen married for 15 years to an undocumented wife who is currently unable to return from Mexico, and an American Families United member: 

“Today, our organization thanks President Biden for expanding work authorization for spouses of U.S. citizens. I’m here to urge President Biden and Congress to expand work authorization to my wife and help bring her back home.Our daughter misses her mother terribly and managing work, parenting and household duties alone has been very stressful. If we are reunited through a work permit, we could start rebuilding our savings and building our family back together again, pursuing a dream of one day starting a company. This will provide us stability and a brighter future for ourselves. I urge President Biden and lawmakers to expand work authorizations for U.S. citizens like my wife. President Biden, please allow my wife, and many families like mine, to live together in the country we know and call home, the United States of America.

Dr. Laura Murillo, President and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, requested that Yolanda Batz join her: 

“I want you to have a face to this issue.[Yolanda] has graduated from the University. She’s knocked on doors, despite the big need that we have in health care. This young woman is bilingual, educated, driven and she’s come very far with very little support from Congress that could absolutely change her trajectory — and that of thousands of others in this particular city and across the country. We ask you to please remember this face and do the right thing.”

Stan Marek, CEO of MAREK Bros. Construction: 

“I am a builder. My company builds everything you see — floor, ceilings, drywall, paint, everything. And we have the biggest labor shortage I’ve seen in my 60 years of being in the industry. Never have I had more of a need for people. We’re working at the airport, M.D. Anderson, Memorial Hospital, churches, schools, we need people. The people are here. We have 750,000 undocumented in Houston. We have a ton of kids eligible to be Dreamers, if they would reopen the act. We could solve the labor shortage with the Dreamers […] It’s a no brainer. […] I could hire 150 people tomorrow if they had legal status.”

Zak Galindo, Owner of Galindo’s Coffee and Elixirs, DACA recipient: 

“I want to highlight the impact that DACA recipients can have on other people. I was lucky enough to receive DACA status 10 years ago. Since then, I graduated from Sam Houston State University. I’ve opened up multiple businesses and now my company staffs over 70 employees, all who now have jobs, can provide for their families, can live the American Dream and buy houses. This story is the same story as many other DACA recipients. There’s also a lot of people out there that just need that one chance, just like I got when I got DACA. That’s why it’s so important to keep moving this forward, because we all make an impact, and there’s so many people out there that they just need that one chance.”

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

“I am also a DACA recipient, proudly raised in Houston and an example of what Houstonians can achieve when we have access to work authorization. Twelve years ago, the administration created DACA to help Texans like me legally work, have a career and live the American Dream. Thanks to this incredible program, I was able to graduate from Sam Houston State University while working as a bank manager at Woodforest National Bank. Now, I help other Houstonians also achieve their American Dream.

“We come together to honor the significant contributions of DACA recipients and Dreamers to the Houston economy and community. We are also here to thank the current administration for expanding work permits for the spouses of U.S. citizens and making it easier for employers to sponsor Dreamers, like me, for work visas. These policies will address our city’s workforce challenges, grow our economy and keep families together.

“Today’s event is not only a celebration of DACA’s impact but also a call to action for President Biden and Congress to work together to further expand work authorization and create a path to legal status for Dreamers, the spouses of U.S. citizens and long-term residents who do not benefit from last week’s announcement.”

Dreamers and long-term residents make vital contributions to Texas’ economy and communities. Key facts:


Associated Press: Half a million immigrants could eventually get US citizenship under a sweeping new plan from Biden

Houston Landing: Houston leaders urge Biden administration to expand work authorization for 500,000 immigrants

American Immigration Council: New Report Shows Immigrants in Houston Paid Over $16 Billion in Taxes and Exceeded $50 Billion in Spending Power in 2021

American Immigration Council: New Americans in Houston


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.