Due to recent political changes, the climate in Texas has buzzed with controversy. Adjustments to immigration laws have left thousands confused about their rights as documented or undocumented immigrants. When Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in May, 2017, that would ban sanctuary cities, it caused a great rift within the state. Although a federal judge blocked this ban as of August, 2017, activists still fear for its passing and subsequent consequences in the future. One such consequence could amount to an enormous toll on Texas’s economy.
“Sanctuary city” is the name lawmakers give cities that restrict cooperation with the federal government in regard to immigration laws. These cities help keep immigrant families together and reduce fear of deportation among undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities aim to protect immigrants with laws prohibiting law enforcement from detaining and questioning people in certain situations. Several sanctuary cities still exist throughout Texas, despite the passing of a statewide measure that is striving to ban the practice.
Thanks to the state’s sanctuary cities, Texas’s economy has benefitted from millions in state and local taxes from undocumented immigrants and billions in gross domestic product. The top 10 industries that benefit from undocumented immigrant labor include agriculture, construction, hospitality, and manufacturing. Losing the workers in these mainstay industries could be detrimental to the state’s economy. Yet this is exactly what the new legislation proposes – a ban on Texas’s sanctuary cities.
Senate Bill 4, the Sanctuary Cities Law, moves to make it a criminal offense for cities and counties to adopt policies that limit immigration law enforcement. SB 4 would also allow police to question the immigration status of any individual they detain or arrest. City officials who violate the laws of SB 4 would face fines, potential jail time, and loss of position. Before its block by a federal judge in San Antonio on August 30, 2017, this bill would have gone into effect September 1, 2017. The federal judge’s ruling is only temporary while a lawsuit against the Bill remains underway. The State of Texas plans to appeal the federal judge’s decision.
Should SB 4 eventually pass, the state could lose billions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis and the 2015 American Community Survey collected data that shows Texas could lose around $223 million in taxes and at least $5 billion in gross domestic product with the passing of SB 4 and the banning of protections for undocumented immigrants. These estimates are only if 10% of undocumented immigrants in Texas were to leave or face deportation – a figure that the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance group calls “conservative.”
A coalition of Houston business leaders estimates the potential losses at $9.2 billion. Many industries are already reporting losses of immigrant workers as they move to neighboring states such as Oklahoma and Louisiana. The disappearance of 10% of undocumented immigrants in the state – about 95,000 workers – could be detrimental to Texas’s current and future economy. Researchers say the ripple effect of the SB 4 legislation could ultimately cost the state upwards of $13.8 billion. While federal judges still consider the constitutionality of SB 4, Texas business leaders prepare for a future of potential economic losses. For more information, contact an attorney at the Law Offices of David A. Breston.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Law Office of David A. Breston is fully operational and we can help you by phone, video or in-person when needed! Call us at (713) 224-4040.