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Texas business coalition says ending ‘Dreamers’ program would cost economy billions

23 Jul

By Mark Curriden of The Texas Lawbook, Houston Chronicle

A federal lawsuit by  Texas officials earlier this year seeking to order the end of the federal immigration program called the Deferred Act for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, will have “immediate, irreparable injury” to Texas businesses and cost the state’s economy billions of dollars, according to a coalition of pro-business organizations.

Seven Texas-based chambers of commerce, two pro-business consortiums and four prominent companies – including Southwest airlines – filed an unprecedented court brief late Saturday asking a federal judge in Houston to reject Attorney General Ken Paxton’s argument that the DACA program be ended and dismantled.

Lawyers for Vinson & Elkins, which represents the business coalition that includes the Texas Association of Business, argue that Paxton’s case – if successful – would significantly damage their operations, deprive them of much needed work expertise and cost the state of Texas tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues.

Texas and six other states filed the lawsuit in May asking the court to “immediately rescind and cancel all DACA permits current in existence,” which legal experts say would lead to the deportation of more than 126,000 young Texans – widely referred to as “Dreamers” – who were brought into the U.S. when they were small children.

In a 20-page legal brief filed Saturday just before midnight, lawyers representing the coalition of business argue that the state’s lawsuit is legally flawed and should be denied.

The pro-business groups say that Paxton’s lawsuit will cost the Texas economy to lose more than $6 billion in gross domestic product – $2 billion of it from the Houston area economy.

“Dreamers are important to the health of the Texas economy, and enjoining the DACA initiative will have significant negative consequences for Texas businesses,” Texas businesses argue in their newly filed court documents.

“Dreamers are active participants in the Texas economy, creating jobs, contributing to Texas businesses as employees, supporting Texas businesses as consumers, and paying taxes to the State to support important programs,” V&E lawyers Harry Reasoner, Tom Leatherbury and Beto Cardenas argue for their clients.

“Researchers have estimated that if Dreamers could no longer be granted deferred action under the DACA guidelines, the United States would lose approximately $460 billion of its GDP over the next decade, and the State of Texas would lose more than $6 billion to its annual GDP.”

The pro-business consortium signing the brief includes the Hispanic chambers of commerce in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Midland, Brazoria County and Rio Grande Valley, as well as Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Laredo-based International Bancshares Corp. and College Station-based Marek Brothers Construction. Combined, they represent tens-of-thousands of businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of Texans.

The court document cites studies showing that more than 8 percent of Dreamers over the age of 25 start their own business. The brief also estimates that the presence of the 126,000 Dreamers living in Texas and their combined purchasing power has led to the existence of 5,800 manufacturing jobs.

“Granting young immigrants deferred action under DACA brings them out of the shadows and gives them the ability to participate fully in the Texas economy, which benefits Texas, in part, through higher tax revenues,” V&E lawyers argue.

The brief states that DACA individuals are expected to contribute about $244.7 million in Texas taxes in 2018.

“Enjoining the DACA initiative would damage the Texas economy by forcing Texas’s Dreamer consumers to the sidelines and reducing the revenues of Texas businesses,” the pro-business brief states. “The instability of life as an undocumented immigrant who might be subject to deportation at any time discourages those Texans from spending their money freely.

The pro-business brief states that about 1,000 Texas-based Dreamers are employed as critical first responders, including police officers, fire fighters and emergency healthcare personnel. Many are public school teachers.

Houston Methodist Hospital, according to the brief, employs 57 Dreamers as lab technicians, nurses, and pharmacists. The document quotes the hospital’s president, Dr. Marc Bloom, saying that Dreamers are “essential” to the nation’s health workforce.

The business organizations point out that DACA was initiated by the Obama Administration in 2012, but the fact that Texas and the six other states suing waited until 2018 to challenge the program is a major legal argument in favor of keeping the status quo.

“The States waited almost six years after the announcement of the DACA guidelines before challenging them in Court, despite challenging similar initiatives implemented after DACA in 2015,” V&E lawyers argue. “Since an  injunction is an equitable remedy, it may be denied on the basis of laches if an unreasonable delay by the party seeking injunctive relief works to the disadvantage or prejudice of another party.

“The States’ delay has substantially impacted businesses in Texas, who have, as described above, come to rely upon Dreamers as valued employees, customers, and fellow members of the business community and now stand to incur significant costs if DACA is enjoined,” the brief states. “The States’ delay also undercuts any claim they have to immediate, irreparable injury, since they have been living with the status quo for six years.”

The federal judge hearing the case, Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter in Houston on Aug. 8.