Hurricane Harvey highlights the role of immigrant labor in Texas economy

By Caroline Halter

The Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA was expected. But it comes as Hurricane Harvey recasts a spotlight on the role of immigrant labor in Texas.

Next to California, Texas has the largest number of residents with temporary legal status under DACA. Many work in industries like construction, which is set to see an increase in demand due to damage from Hurricane Harvey.

“There’s all sorts of other reasons not to penalize people who were brought here as children,” said Texas economist Ray Perryman. “But even if you put all those issues aside, there are many industries where the undocumented workforce is very important, but probably nowhere more than construction.”

Perryman says rescinding DACA will only exaggerate the state’s need for foreign workers.

“It’s a very big overall problem,” he said. ‘I think this storm just puts a real exclamation point on the issue at this particular point in time.”

Congress has the opportunity to act on DACA within the next six months, but Perryman says negative rhetoric alone can worsen the types of labor shortages that will hinder rebuilding along the Gulf Coast.

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