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Dreamers Make Texas a Richer Place to Live [Editorial]

Photo by Godofredo A. Vasquez / Houston Chronicle

In recent months, as news reports have been dominated by wrenching stories about families separated at the border, the plight of young people known as Dreamers have mostly been pushed from headlines.

It shouldn’t be. As a legal brief filed this week reminds us, this group of immigrants — an estimated 800,000 across the country and more than 120,000 in Texas alone — deserves our attention and support.

They were brought to this country illegally as children and received legal work status and a reprieve from deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program known as DACA.

Under DACA, the Dreamers were able to come out of the shadows and graduate from college, launch careers in the medical field, education, retail and journalism, build businesses and buy homes. Only to have their futures thrown into limbo when President Donald Trump ordered an end to the program last September.

Since then, their lives have been thrust into turmoil amid dueling court challenges. In May, a federal judge in D.C. ruled that protections must stay in place and the government had to accept new applications. That same month, Texas and six other states filed a lawsuit seeking to end the program.

This week, a coalition of 114 businesses, chambers of commerce, and other organizations filed a brief asking a judge to toss out the lawsuit, which had been filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a long-time opponent of DACA.

An end to DACA, the brief argues, would “unravel the Dreamers’ many contributions to the Texas economy” — damaging the “larger Texas business community” and those that filed the brief, which include Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Uber and Verizon.

“The Dreamers contribute to the Texas economy by creating jobs, strengthening the tax base, and supporting Texas businesses as customers,” the brief states, before enumerating the staggering economic impact of DACA recipients:

If DACA ends, the United States could lose $460 billion loss in gross domestic product over the next decade. Texas could lose more than $6 billion in annual economic activity. The Greater Houston region could lose more than $2 billion.

In 2015, about 7,229 DACA-eligible entrepreneurs lived in Texas. The state’s 126,000 Dreamers are likely responsible for preserving 5,800 manufacturing jobs, which leads to job creation through purchasing powers, increased sales and demands for services.

While we were disappointed that the Greater Houston Partnership did not join the brief — a spokesman said the organization wasn’t given enough time to adequately review it — President Bob Harvey notes that anything short of comprehensive immigration, “including an abrupt dismantlement of DACA through the courts,” would have a “substantial negative effect” on Houston’s economy.

But Dreamers do more than add digits to the economic numbers. In many ways, their most valuable contributions can’t be quantified.

They bolster the culture and energy of the city through art and music. They enrich our futures by teaching schoolchildren and volunteering in community organizations. They save lives in hospitals and at accident scenes. They have helped Houston become the diverse, vibrant kaleidoscope that attracts tourists, invites new investors, and spurs growth by drawing new residents from other states and countries. They serve in the military — and became heroes during Harvey.

Dozens work in Houston’s hospitals and medical center. Houston Methodist Hospital alone has 57 Dreamers on staff.

About 1,000 Dreamers in Texas work as first responders, police officers, firefighters and teachers. One is Jesus Contreras, a paramedic who worked for six days without rest after Harvey ravaged Houston. He camped out at a fire station, pulled storm victims from flood waters, transported many to hospitals.

Think of what we will lose if Dreamers are pushed out of our communities. Think of the lives that would not have been saved, the children who would not be educated, the jobs that would not flourish, . Think of how much poorer — in so many ways — our state would be.

Then tell our elected officials, especially Ken Paxton, to do what’s right for the Dreamers because that’s what’s right for all of us. Tell him to halt his wrong-headed crusade against DACA.

Article by The Houston Chronicle Editorial Board View on Houston Chronicle

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