DACA Decision Could Significantly Complicate Recovery from Hurricane Harvey

The Economic Benefits of the Texas Undocumented Workforce

Click above to download an infographic summarizing the report findings (PDF).

The Trump Administration has announced a decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration program allowing individuals who entered the United States as children to remain here for school or work. Nearly 800,000 persons are enrolled in the program. Approximately 124,3000 of these “Dreamers” live in Texas, with a high concentration in Houston and the Gulf Coast region.

The Administration allowed six months for Congressional action to provide a replacement for DACA, which was the result of a 2012 Presidential memorandum and was never intended to be a long-term solution. If no action is taken, this group will be subject to deportation when work visas in place on March 5, 2018 expire. Immigration reform is essential to long-term economic prosperity, and Congressional action is needed to fix the current system, particularly given the decision to end DACA.

Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are a crucial source of labor. In fact, in a recent study, we estimated that the number of undocumented workers in Texas is much larger than the total number of unemployed persons in the workforce. Even if all currently unemployed persons filled jobs now held by undocumented workers (which is impossible for myriad reasons), the state would be left with a glaring gap of hundreds of thousands of workers if the undocumented workforce were no longer available.

In a recent study, The Perryman Group examined the costs and benefits of the undocumented workforce (download the study below). Certain industries are particularly in need of workers and rely on undocumented individuals, including the construction sector. Our analysis indicates that there are more than 250,000 undocumented construction workers in Texas, with roughly one-third of them in the Houston area. Many of these workers are highly skilled; they represent about 30% of the state’s construction labor force, with no replacements readily available. Given that construction crews travel to needed areas, Houston and the Gulf Coast could easily face a shortage of 100,000-150,000 or more workers for the efforts to rebuild homes, businesses, and infrastructure. As fears of deportation rise, it becomes increasingly difficult to access this critical resource. The Texas Gulf Coast recently saw this phenomenon in action with the seasonal workers on the shrimp boats. The DACA decision heightens this anxiety and complicates the recovery effort.

As a part of our ongoing efforts to assist in making useful information available in this time of crisis, we are making our workforce study from last year available for download below, along with other information from our ongoing analysis. We hope you find it helpful.