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Texas Op-Ed: Anti-Immigrant Policies Hurt Businesses, Economy, Americans

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The Trump Administration has spent almost a year implementing some of the harshest and most anti-immigrant policies it can think of, even though a majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for most immigrants rather than deportation.

The Administration clearly hasn’t been considering, and doesn’t seem to care about, the contributions that immigrants make to the economy or what happens when they leave. A few years ago, the state of Alabama famously passed an anti-immigrant law and consequently saw its agriculture industry wither.

At The Monitor today is an op-ed from Samuel David Garcia, a Harvard Law student from the Rio Grande Valley who writes about how anti-immigrant policies nationally and at the state level (thanks to Texas’ anti-immigrant law HB 56) have made the region less vibrant. Read the whole piece here or an excerpt below:

There was once a time when busloads of Mexican citizens would arrive at La Plaza Mall in McAllen for daylong shopping sprees. These shoppers often planned on buying so much that they brought empty suitcases to fill with their purchases from the mall and surrounding stores. Expecting this trend to continue, La Plaza Mall invested in a multi million-dollar expansion, prior to the election of Donald Trump, which was just completed late last year.

Unfortunately, the number of buses and overall shoppers coming to McAllen from Mexico now has dwindled significantly after the election of Trump who has repeatedly espoused negative rhetoric about Mexico. In fact, some reports have the City of McAllen losing up to 6.4 percent of its sales revenue after the #AdiosMcAllen campaign started in Mexico in retaliation to inflammatory remarks from President Trump.

It is not just La Plaza Mall that is suffering. Countless businesses in the RGV rely on traffic from the mall, primarily hotels. One Rio Grande Valley hotel owner noted that, over the past two years, he has experienced a 40 to 45 percent drop in Mexican leisure visitors. And the CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, mentioned in an interview with Fortune magazine that the downturn of overall travelers into the United States might have begun with Trump’s negative comments about Mexico….

In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) which enables law officers in Texas to ask anyone (victims, suspects, and witnesses) their immigration status if they believe it to be important to their investigation. Although billed as a way of “securing our border,” SB 4 was no doubt created and passed in order to appease far-right interests in the Texas Legislature. Its passage, however, seems to only have accomplished two things: The immediate alienation of many would-be Mexican tourists to the state, and a reduction in contract laborers who effectively keep Texas running. The pinch of an already stretched labor force was felt heavily during rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey when a shortage of construction workers was reported throughout the hardest hit areas.

Although so many Texans have been persuaded to believe that Texas as a whole would be better off with harsh immigration policies, that appears to be far from the truth — especially for businesses in Texas. As border regions, like South Texas, suffer and cities find themselves in massive need of laborers, like Houston, it may be time for us to acknowledge just how intertwined the health of our state’s economy is with Mexico and finally make an effort to grow with them.