Harvey, DACA dominate Hispanic Impact SummitHouston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce • Sep 15, 2017
By Ileana Najarro
September 15, 2017
Photo: Ileana Najarro
Laura Murillo, president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke about the costs of Harvey recovery efforts at the chamber's second annual Hispanic Impact Summit.
Laura Murillo, president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has called on Gov. Greg Abbott to tap into the state's Rainy Day Fund for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
"Gov. Abbott, we need that Rainy Day Fund in Houston," Murillo said. "We need FEMA. We need it now."
Abbott has not committed to tapping the nearly $10 billion fund. He has said there is no need for a special session to spend the emergency money, but legislative leaders caution against tapping the fund without one.
Harvey recovery and the economic consequences of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program dominated the conversation at the chamber's second annual Hispanic Impact Summit. The Thursday night event offered updated findings on the consumer and entrepreneurial strength of the local Hispanic community - a demographic researchers call vital to Houston's rebuilding.
Murillo, joined on stage at the Asia Society Texas Center by Mayor Sylvester Turner, kicked off the evening talking about recovery costs.
Turner pitched his proposed one-time 8.9 percent property tax hike to the room full of executives and entrepreneurs as a means to cover expenses, including the estimated $230 million in debris removal costs.
"I am going to expend what I need to expend to get this debris out," Turner said. He invited attendees to partake in a series of public hearings on the tax proposal scheduled for later this month.
Keynote speaker and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism Joel Kotkin noted that as Harris County and Houston's Hispanic population continues to grow, it will play a vital role in getting the region back on its feet.
"The people who are going to rebuild Houston will largely be Hispanic," Kotkin said. In his statistical presentation, Cesar Espinoza, vice president of research for Telemundo, said Hispanics make up 36 percent of the Houston population and 42 percent of the total Harris County population.
As more Hispanics in Harris County age 25 and older report having at least a bachelor's degree (a growth of 88 percent between 2005 and 2015), so too has the local number of Hispanic small business owners grown (an 85 percent increase since 2013), Espinoza said.
Hispanic consumer spending in Houston is more than $50 billion annually and is projected to exceed $77 billion in 2022.
Hispanics account for 24 percent of all auto sales in Houston this far this year, as well as 24 percent of the local mortgage and rental market.
Citing research from the Migration Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress, the Hispanic Chamber put together its own white paper on the economic impact of losing DACA, including noting DACA recipients' purchasing power.
The DACA program, launched by executive order by former President Barack Obama, grants qualifying individuals who were brought to the U.S. at a young age a reprieve from detention and deportation, a two-year renewable work permit and the ability to apply for a driver's license. Nationally, 800,000 young adults are estimated to be living and working under the program.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced the program would be rescinded in the coming months, leaving it up to Congress to legislate a permanent version.
According to the Hispanic Chamber's report, 65 percent of surveyed DACA recipients reported purchasing their first car when under the program, with an average cost paid of $16,469. Sixteen percent of respondents said that after receiving DACA they purchased their first home.
The study identified DACA recipients as one of the fast-growing groups in home ownership.
The study also found that 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients including Apple, General Motors, Amazon and Wells Fargo to name a few.
Murillo called on attendees to urge contact their legislators to save DACA and stressed the importance of voting in the 2018 national midterm election.
"If you don't believe voting makes a difference, look at the political climate we're in," she said.
Ileana Najarro Business reporter