Lone Star State can't do it alone, immigration group says

Immigrants play a major role in the Texas economy, both as taxpayers and consumers, paying more than $29 billion in state taxes in 2014 and carrying nearly $90 million in spending power, a group promoting bipartisan support for immigration reform said in a report on Tuesday.

The New American Economy (NAE) pointed out that Texas is home to approximately 4 million immigrants, second only to California, and that state companies with at least one immigrant partner provide jobs to approximately 422,000 people.

More than 500 million mayors and business leaders across all political parties support the NAE and immigration reform, believing such efforts benefit America, especially in job creation, the group said. By press time, Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Republicans, had not responded to requests for comment.

Karen Collins, a business adviser in Dallas, said she believes the immigration system is broken.

“There are people who live here and want to work here, so we should build a better system for legal immigration that allows people to work and pay into the system,” Collins said. “It would be hard for anyone to dispute their work ethic and desire to provide for their families.”

The NAE report also reveals how immigrants are vital in filling some of the skills gaps that American employers have suffered since the 2008 recession. In particular, the health care industry is expected to see rapid growth and will be shorthanded if immigrants are denied roles. Nearly one of every seven people in Texas is elderly and finding enough aides is a constant and growing challenge. The engineering and metal fabrication sectors face similar problems.

“Our company has a shortage of skilled construction workers," Katherine Chang Dress, vice president of Marketing for the PDI Group in Dallas, said. "We wish there were better ways to employ foreign workers with these skills. For example, there are many foreign students who are good workers, but after they're educated in the United States, they cannot stay here. This doesn’t make sense. I'm an immigrant myself, and I've had the opportunity to live the American dream, building a company and creating American jobs. We should encourage more of this.”

PDI is a LED lighting and engineering, metal fabrication and construction company.

John Feinblatt, chairman of the NAE, said the new report provides data the group will use to push for immigration reform at 140 events around the country.

“Across the map and in every industry, immigrants strengthen the economies of big cities and small towns alike," he said.

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