“Juan” was a bright young man who started working for my company as a packing logistics clerk right out of high school, earning money to support his family and pay for his education. He caught on quickly and quickly became one of the most effective members of my team. I called him to discuss a promotion.
That’s when he told me something I hadn’t expected: he couldn’t accept our offer due to the uncertain future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. , which allowed him to work for us legally. In fact, he was preparing to leave Brownsville and Texas altogether so that in the event the government ended DACA — something the Trump administration tried to do twice — he would be nowhere near the frontier.
I was stunned. As someone involved in immigration policy for three decades, I had closely followed the fate of the DACA program, which allows young people who were brought to the United States before 2012 to work and study here as long as they respect our laws and pay their taxes. But I had no idea that one of my employees was a DACA recipient.
Companies like ours are another victim of the federal government’s repeated failure to enact a legislative solution to resolve the uncertainty surrounding the Dreamers’ status. We thought Juan would have a long-term career with our company. Even if he hadn’t stayed with us forever, he would have learned skills that he could have taken with him to strengthen the Texas workforce.
Juan’s departure was a loss to my business, to our community, and to Texas. And it’s a cautionary tale of what will happen to more Texas businesses if our senators don’t prioritize DACA and find a way to keep this American-trained talent in the country.
It affects us all. My company supplies quality biological materials to thousands of hospitals, medical offices and clinical laboratories across the country. We develop, manufacture and distribute nearly half a million test kits per year. When Juan left, it took us six months to replace him and train the new employee, and another 12-24 months to bring them up to the same level as Juan when he left. This time could have been put to much better use, especially during the pandemic.
Current immigration policy makes it harder to find and hire talented workers by artificially limiting the talent pool. It also makes growing my business a challenge because it creates a risk – a risk that Congress could easily eliminate – that the employees I hire may not be able to stay in the United States long term.
It was not always a partisan issue. I served on ad hoc committees on immigration reform for President George W. Bush and former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and joined business leaders Eddie Aldrete and Dennis Nixon in advocating for immigration reform. But it is obvious that immigration is now a political ball, an issue that both sides always want to talk about but never want to solve. We deserve better.
Politically speaking, this should be a low hanging fruit.
The DREAM legislation is very popular across the country among voters and business leaders. We cannot continue to lose talent and money to politics. Congressional inaction for Dreamers has already cost my company a great employee. Further inaction would cost our state more than $963 million per year, the annual Texas Dreamers contribution to federal, state, and local taxes.
I am proud to have joined the Texas Opportunity Coalition last month to call on Congress to pass permanent protection for our Dreamers. The House of Representatives has already passed a bipartisan Dream Act, and I urge Senators Cornyn and Cruz to stand with Texas businesses like mine and support the bipartisan Dream Act bill in the Senate. This bill is an important starting point for a bipartisan discussion that will finally give dreamers like Juan and businesses like mine the certainty we need to grow and prosper in Texas.
Editor’s Note: The guest column above was written by Nick Serafy, CEO of Proficiency Testing Service, Inc. in Brownsville and a member of the Texas Opportunity Coalition. The TOC unites businesses, institutions, executives, and leaders from across Texas who are dedicated to the passage of a Federal Congressional DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act that grants permanent legal status to the Dreamers. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with permission from the author. Serafy can be reached by email via: [email protected].
Editor’s note: The main image accompanying the column of guests above shows protesters chanting slogans at an immigration rally in support of DACA. (Photo credits: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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