'Sanctuary cities' law could cost Texas billions, activists sayHouston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce • Aug 02, 2017
Business leaders, city officials and immigration advocacy groups spoke out Tuesday against the "sanctuary cities" bill.
The Texas economy stands to lose at least $9.2 billion under the forthcoming "sanctuary cities" law, a coalition of Houston business leaders, city officials and immigration advocacy groups said Tuesday.
The law, formally known as Senate Bill 4, will allow police officers to question a detained person's legal status, and it penalizes law enforcement agencies that fail to comply. Industry leaders and activists have already noted a chilling effect on the state's undocumented workforce.
The analysis presented Tuesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center suggests more economic pain ahead.
Paul Puente, executive secretary of the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council, said many undocumented construction workers are already packing up and leaving with their families to neighboring states such as Oklahoma and Louisiana ahead of SB4's implementation on Sept. 1.
An analysis of data from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that if 10 percent of undocumented immigrants leave Texas, the state would forfeit about $190.7 million in federal tax revenue and $223.5 million more in state and local taxes.
The disappearance of those estimated 95,000 undocumented workers would also result in nearly $2.9 billion in lost wage earnings. The analysis also found that the state would lose an additional 70,000 jobs dependent on undocumented consumers, with an estimated $2.4 billion more in lost wages.
The researchers said the ripple effect throughout the economy could reach between $9.2 billion and $13.8 billion.
"Our economy, our pocketbooks depend on immigrants," Laura Murillo, president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said at a Tuesday news conference.
Supporters of the sanctuary cities law say it is needed to protect Texans and ensure existing immigration laws are enforced.
"My top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement after signing the bill on Facebook Live.
Attorney General Ken Paxton has defended the measure as "constitutional, lawful and a vital step in securing our borders."
The analysis released Tuesday was based on data collected in the aftermath of a similar law that took effect in Arizona in 2010. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of undocumented Hispanics left that state.
Puente, also a board member of Houston First Corp., the city's promotional arm, said SB4 also would hurt the hospitality and tourism industries in Texas. Mexican nationals are the most common international tourists to visit Houston, Puente said, and many spend $1,500 per person here. Now there is concern these tourists will avoid the state because they fear being questioned about their status while on vacation.
Conventions and conferences have already announced cancellations or have threatened to move events out of the state in response to SB4.
These include events hosted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Association of American Law Schools, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and the International Society for Technology in Education.
"Even if you don't know someone who is undocumented, this law is going to affect us all," said Karla Prieto, an immigration attorney for Fong and Associates.