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TEXAS There is a nationwide movement to expand access to work permits for long-term undocumented immigrants, and Texas leaders are at the helm. Today, U.S. Representatives Escobar and Garcia; Bishop Seitz; State Rep. Rafael Anchia; Woody Hunt; pollster Celinda Lake; and leaders from American Families United urged President Biden to expand work authorization for long-term immigrants in a briefing hosted by the American Business Immigration Coalition. Watch the briefing here.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) called on the Biden administration to expand work permits and keep American families together. Rep. Escobar, who previously introduced the American Families United Act, stated, “We can help families — especially mixed-status families — come out of the shadows and work toward a better future in our country.” She shared the example of U.S. citizen Edgar Falcon who married his wife, Maricruz, at the U.S.-Mexico border after she was refused a visa. “These families have had to navigate two worlds, causing them to miss birthdays and special occasions and not be able to see their loved ones. Immigrants provide so much to our communities and their contributions have grown our culture, our economy and our country for the better.”

Said U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), “Expanding work authorization for immigrants isn’t just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. Studies have shown that allowing immigrants to work legally leads to economic growth and job creation. Together, we can ensure that all immigrants have the opportunity to contribute and thrive in the country they call home. Today, I’m urging the Biden administration to expand work authorization opportunities for immigrants.”

Bishop Mark Seitz of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso added, “It is a fundamental need of any healthy society that we create conditions in which the family is healthy.  This requires that family unity is preserved, married couples and children are united and the family can be supported, not as some kind of underclass condemned to constantly needing handouts, but through the opportunity to use their God-given abilities to care for their own.

Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), the son of immigrants, said, “Immigrants are the oxygen that flows through the blood of America, in each successive generation. The Biden administration has a unique opportunity now to enhance work authorization. It is a truism that in order for the United States to prosper, we need to increase legal immigration. In order to decrease illegal immigration, we must increase legal immigration.” Rep. Anchia stated that about 305,000 people in Dallas County could immediately be put to work if the Biden administration acts. He extolled a system of willing employers and willing workers, explaining that with a system that is safe and legal, we could solve this relatively quickly. “I urge the Biden administration to do everything in their power to put people to work, to help them live the American dream and to contribute to this place that we love,” added Anchia.

“It is economically important, politically smart and morally right for President Biden to expand work authorization opportunities for long-term undocumented Texans who are ready and willing to give back,” said Woody Hunt, Senior Chairman of Hunt Companies. “We don’t have enough workers to fill the jobs we have. If we want to keep this economic engine turning, the business community needs the President to act and for Congress to help us find more legal workers.’

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, shared poll results highlighting strong support in seven swing states for expanding work permits for undocumented immigrants (including long-term workers, farm workers, Dreamers and the spouses of U.S. citizens). “The strongest arguments in favor of this policy are the personal stories, like the ones shared today. Mixed-status families, families with children. The conversation about the labor force that the business leaders talked about, and also concerns about exploitation. Because people believe if you keep this many workers in undocumented status, you are creating a situation for workplace exploitation, including for people who are citizens and people who are not citizens. Across the board, the data defies the politics and we see very, very strong support for this policy — support that transcends partisanship and candidate preference.”

Edgar Falcon, a teacher and El Paso member of American Families United, said: “For 11 years, I have fought to live here with my wife. Instead, I spend hours every day commuting back and forth across the border. My wife was turned away as a minor but would have qualified as a Dreamer if she had been in the U.S. She is now studying to become a nutritionist in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. There is a labor shortage of nutritionists in El Paso. My wife could help the whole community if the government would give her a work permit.”

Added Yolanda Batz, a Dream Scholar at the University of Houston, “Right now, my biggest dream is to be able to work as a nurse and care for Texans, but without a work permit, I am not allowed to do so. I am also petrified that if SB 4 takes effect, my family and I could be targets of arrest and deportation. Access to work authorization would allow my family and me to apply for a driver’s license, which could protect us from this law. President Biden, please expand work authorization opportunities for Texans like me and my family.” 

Oscar Silva, a Dreamer and student at the University of North Texas (Denton) contributed, “Next month, I’m on track to finish my undergrad journey. Without a work permit in sight, I plan to attend grad school until our federal government creates a solution. The uncertainty of not having a work permit and the possibility that SB 4 will take effect has left me in a state of constant stress and fear for the reality that I will graduate ‘into the shadows’ someday. President Biden, please expand work authorization opportunities for my parents and me so that we can legally use our talents and skills and be protected from SB 4.”

The gathering occurred as the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals considers the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4, which allows law enforcement to arrest people they suspect to be undocumented immigrants. 

Texas had over 781,000 unfilled jobs in January of this year. Meanwhile, 1.6 million Texans cannot legally work, despite paying $4 billion in taxes and wielding a spending power of $33.9 billion. Expanding work permits for long-term contributors is overwhelmingly popular among Americans generally. Nineteen U.S. Senators; 80+ members of Congress, 300+ employers, CEOs and associations and labor organizations like SEIU, UNITE HERE, the Teamsters and United Auto Workers (UAW) are also backing the plan.