Â |Â Austin American-Statesman
Home toÂ 4.9 million immigrantsÂ who are driving innovation, creating jobs, fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic, and boosting economic growth, Texas is at the forefront of our national immigration conversation. After four years of policies that encouraged family separation, child detention and the dismantling of immigration avenues such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, itâ€™s time for a renewed focus on immigration reform that prioritizes morality and civility while expanding opportunities to strengthen our economy.Â
As we look ahead to a new presidential administration, a small yet significant court victory returned the DACA program to its original 2012 state, prior to program termination attempts that would deport hundreds of thousands of young immigrants. This ruling restored the ability for eligible young immigrants to apply for protections and work authorizationÂ under the DACA program. DACA status renewals were also extended from a one-year restriction to the original two-year renewal time frame.
This ruling provides temporary relief for young immigrants and for the future of Texas. Immigrants play a vital role in strengthening our communities and our economy â€“ in the Lone Star State and beyond. Today, there are nearlyÂ 23 million essential immigrant workersÂ in the United States, representing nearly 1 in 5 workers within the total U.S. essential workforce. Each day, undocumented essential workers and their families riskÂ their health and safety to provide essential services to their communities and the nation.
Further, Texas has theÂ second-largest DACA population in AmericaÂ who contribute to the diversity and innovation of our education system and workforce. More thanÂ 30,600 DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, play a vital role in our essential workforce â€“ from health care to food service, agriculture, construction and more â€“ helping families and businesses survive the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.Â
However, the DACA program still faces an uphill battleÂ â€” in fact, the fate of the program is in Texasâ€™ hands. A Southern Texas District court led by Judge Andrew Hanen will soon rule on the legality of the DACA program.Â Hanen has aÂ history of rulingsÂ that have proven harmful towardÂ immigrant communities. If he rules against DACA, protections and work authorizations for DACA recipients could be in jeopardy again and DACA-eligible immigrants would no longer be able to apply.
While the future of DACA is with the courts, it is up to President-elect Joe Biden and Congress to enact meaningful legislation that encourages immigrants to contribute to our diverse and innovative workforce and economy.
AtÂ FWD.us, weâ€™ve beenÂ collaboratingÂ with Texas business and civic leaders, elected officialsÂ and immigration experts to leave anti-immigration policies behind and discuss the real impact of immigration to the business community and economy. Weâ€™re working to advocate for a reformed, fair immigration system in the U.S. and supporting those who want to contribute to our great state. It is clear that the Texas population is evolving, and the nation is growing more diverse each year. Rather than discouraging immigration, we need to empower immigrants and fully tap into the talents of undocumented Texans that strengthen our state every day.
Moving forward, pro-immigration policies must take center stage. Immigrant workers, including those with visa, permanent, and undocumented status, are crucial to upholding our stateâ€™s economy. Protections for Texasâ€™Â DACA recipients and nearly 6 millionÂ temporary, seasonal and undocumented immigrant essential workers must be a top priority in our leadersâ€™ 2021 agenda as we work to rebuild Texasâ€™ economy and strengthen our families, and especially as we work to rebuild a stronger, more competitive nation after the pandemic.
Garcia is the Texas State Director of FWD.us