AUSTIN — With President Barack Obama planning to use his executive authority to give work permits and temporary protection from deportation to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants, Texas could see diverse effects, from boosting the economy to draining state resources.
Texas has an undocumented immigrant population of about 1.46 million people, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. Those affected would include undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, who have lived in the country for five years, and who have background checks and pay taxes. An estimated 533,000 immigrants live in Texas with at least one U.S. citizen child. Those who reside with noncitizen children number 92,000.
The Texas Association of Business, a moderate conservative group, repeatedly has called for comprehensive immigration reform as a way to strengthen the Texas economy. However, association President Bill Hammond said Obama’s plan could put such strength on shaky ground.
“We support comprehensive immigration reform, but we also think this is the wrong way to go about it,” Hammond said. “It’s temporary. It could be overturned by the Congress, legislation or a new president. You’re putting a lot of people in limbo.”
The association hopes for reform that would grant some sort of legal status to those already in Texas, Hammond said. In such a way, wages could rise, he said.
“We think the only way to secure the border is to allow enough legal immigration to meet the needs of employers,” he said.
Cesar Espinosa, executive director of the immigrant rights group Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle, said Obama’s measures could mean getting people on the payroll and bringing in payroll taxes, as well as getting more drivers insured by allowing them to have licenses.
“When you have people coming out of the shadows, we’ll be able to identify some of these people, give them driver’s licenses and make our roads safe,” Espinosa said.
Texas has a strategic position at the border and is a major hub for deportations and apprehensions.
Texas is the top state for deportation proceedings in immigration courts, with 64,514 in the 2014 fiscal year. The nation as a whole had 222,956, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data organization at Syracuse University.
Meanwhile, total apprehensions in Texas by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2013 were 243,550, more than half the U.S. total of 420,789.
Newly elected state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, came out against “executive amnesty” and said the cost to state government would rise.
“The effects will be immediate and irreversible,” Perry wrote in a news release Thursday. “We spend roughly $6,500 on Medicaid and $1,500 on food stamps per individual in Texas each year (2011 numbers). Every child we add to our education system costs roughly $12,500 per year. Our funding for these programs and others are already stretched thin; infusing more people into the system will only exasperate the problem.”
Matthew Waller covers state news as the Scripps Austin Bureau chief. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter@waller_matthew.
U.S. Deportation Proceedings in Immigration Courts
FISCAL YEAR 2014
–Entire U.S.: 222,956
FISCAL YEAR 2013
–Entire U.S.: 198,723
FISCAL YEAR 2012
–Entire U.S.: 214,656
Source: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.