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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and US Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Houston-area Business Leaders & Immigrant Workers Tout Economic Contributions of Immigrants, Urge Congress to Pass Common Sense Immigration Solutions

Call to Action Comes One Day Before Senate Leaders Make Case for Inclusion of Immigration Reforms in Budget Reconciliation to Parliamentarian

Houston, TX — Today Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and US Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) joined Houston-area business leaders  and a DACA-recipient paramedic to highlight the Houston region’s reliance on immigrants as workers and entrepreneurs, and the urgent economic need for Congress to create a path to citizenship for Dreamers, farmworkers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers. 

Yesterday, news leaked that this Friday, September 10, Senate Democrats will make the case to include a path to citizenship in budget reconciliation. On Monday, September 13th, the House Judiciary Committee will begin marking up the legislative text of the $107 billion allocated in the budget resolution for a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrant workers.

“Immigration reform is a vital necessity for continued sustainability and growth of Houston’s economy. Without immigrants, our city cannot continue to be the inimitable economic powerhouse that Houston has become. They are one of the main reasons that people from all over the country are moving to Houston and other Texas cities to find good-paying jobs,” said City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Houston’s economic growth in the coming years will depend on immigrants. Construction, service, health and IT sectors for example will rely more on immigrants to meet labor demands. Immigrants have and are currently helping build this city to what it is today, and they will be the key to our city’s prosperity in the future. Houston is a thriving metropolis that has made contributions in energy, science, medicine and engineering. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the help of immigrants who came here to pursue their dreams and build a better and brighter future for themselves and their families… Congress needs to enact immigration reform”

Mayor Turner was joined by Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) who has cosponsored bills with provisions she hopes to see passed in the upcoming budget reconciliation process.

“As a representative of this community, I cosponsored and voted for HR 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, to provide legal permanent resident status for DACA and TPS recipients, and the House of Representatives has passed this bill in this Congress as well as the last one. The House has also passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 just this Spring. And we have the opportunity before us now to address these important matters again in the Build Back Better Plan in the reconciliation process currently making its way through Congress,” said Rep. Fletcher. “On this issue before the Congress, the message from Houston is clear: It is time. It is past time for Congress to act to address our broken immigration system with practical solutions and in a bipartisan way to address the many issues and challenges and to seize the opportunities that doing so will mean for our communities and our country.”

Like many cities across the nation, Houston is facing worker shortages. At the same time, the city’s 586,000 undocumented workers have a spending power totaling $9.8 billion and pay $1.2 billion in taxes annually. Passing common sense immigration solutions is crucial to boost the Houston economy, create jobs, ease the labor shortage, and support families.

“As a bipartisan coalition of 1200 CEOs and Employers, we strongly prefer bipartisan solutions, but despite many positive conversations with 41 Republican Senators, none has stepped forward to cosponsor existing bipartisan, stand alone bills like the Dream Act,” said TBIC Director and ABIC Deputy Campaign Director Juan Carlos Cerda. “If reconciliation is going forward, adding immigration is the only vehicle in sight.  A New Poll shows that 67 percent of Americans support legalization, and that is why we urge Congress to include it in their reconciliation bill.” 

Yesterday, a group of the nation’s leading economists sent a letter to congressional leadership urging a pathway to citizenship through reconciliation, arguing that it would bolster the U.S. economy. In the letter, economists calculate that “creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those eligible for TPS, and undocumented immigrants in essential occupations, including farmworkers, would grow U.S. GDP by $1.5 trillion, raise the annual wages of all workers by $600, and create more than 400,000 new jobs over the next decade. A new poll found 67-26% support for legalization in reconciliation extending across party lines, with intensity strongly pro-immigrant.

Additional speaker comments included:

Stan Marek, CEO, Marek Family of Companies: “I’m an employer of construction workers…and we’ve never had a labor shortage in my fifty years like we’re seeing right now. Ladies and gentlemen, we are missing a golden opportunity to take these kids who came for no cause of their own, and they can’t get a job… A lot of the people in our industry want to recruit from the high schools, but if 30 or 40 percent are undocumented, they’re not going to do it. We need a legal status for the kids getting out of high school so that they can enter a trade and get a good, legitimate job and pay taxes.”

Dr. Laura G. Murillo, CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: “I stand before you, now running one of the most influential chambers of commerce, because my immigrant parents were given an opportunity to thrive and succeed. They worked hard as so many other immigrants in this country have done, and in particular, in our city. This conversation is about business: the economic impact that immigrants make, have made and will continue to make in our region and throughout the country, the billions of dollars that they contribute to our tax base and also their consumer spending in our region and throughout the country. This is the time to act. Every entrepreneur, every business that I connect with tells me they need more workers. They cannot hire enough people. If you want our economy to remain strong, we must make this a priority, an economic imperative. Congress, please act. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s keep our country economically vibrant and strong.”

Jesus Contreras, DACA recipient and paramedic: “I was one of those high school students who had the fortunate ability of passing a trade program. Mine was the EMT school offered through Lonestar College. Even though I passed the program, I couldn’t become a certified EMT basically because I was undocumented. Fast forward to 2013, the Obama administration passed DACA and I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a paramedic. Shortly after that, I was involved in the rescue efforts of Hurricane Harvey, the February freeze, some of the Tax Day floods and different emergencies that have happened here in Houston. Today I’m working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic and the people it has infected. One struggle I’m seeing is we have a shortage of EMTs, paramedics, and healthcare staff. A lot of us are DACA recipients. A lot of us are TPS holders and immigrants.Who knows who’s going to take that spot in the ambulance if I get deported. I urge Congress to finalize this bill, to get comprehensive immigration reform included in this bill”

ABOUT 

The American Business Immigration Coalition (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. ABIC is active in key states and communities across the country engaging activists, advocates, business leaders and elected officials on the urgency of passing immigration reform that boosts our economy, creates jobs, eases the labor shortage and supports families.  

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