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Immigration crackdown could cause worker shortage in Texas

While the Trump administration’s continued efforts to tighten immigration has been a hot-button social issue, some are bracing for a potentially harmful economic impact. Members of the Texas business community are beginning to voice concerns over what they fear could be a detrimental byproduct of stricter policies—a shortage of workers.

Owners of construction companies, restaurateurs and even executives in the tech industry are preparing for what could be a significant thinning of the workforce. Texas is already dealing with a depleted pool of workers, and the removal of some immigrants’ protected status could put a further strain on certain industries’ efforts to find viable employees.

Large numbers could face deportation

Some 113,000 immigrants in Texas are in limbo as negotiations on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continue to play out. DACA has previously served as a protection for young immigrants from deportation, while also bestowing them with work permits. The Trump administration is also seeking to end protections for roughly 36,000 Salvadorans that currently live in Texas. Those immigrants were given temporary protected status (TPS) after two devastating earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001, but they could now be facing deportation.

A tight labor market could get tighter

Immigrant employees make up a significant portion of the workforce in fields like landscaping, construction, agriculture and the restaurant business. Drastic immigration policy changes could potentially ding a labor market that’s already pretty tight. Texas has a seasonal unemployment rate of just 3.8 percent, and many workers are migrating to Houston to assist in rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey.

Labor shortages can also come with a broader economic impact. The Center for American Progress estimates that eliminating DACA would decrease Texas’s gross domestic product (GDP) by $6.3 billion per year. The organization says that the removal of the TPS program for Salvadorans would also shrink the state’s GDP by $1.3 billion annually. The Texas Association for Business, for their part, has lobbied to preserve DACA, citing that it’s vital to the state’s economy.

As the immigration debate continues, the potentially disastrous economic effects warrant consideration. Mass deportations of tax-paying workers could have a ripple effect across several Texas industries, causing much more harm than good.

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