Debbie Rodriguez sees plenty of undocumented immigrants realize their own American dream — and create jobs for other Americans in the process. “We’re in a unique situation to know who the business owners are in our community and sometimes they don’t have permission to be here,” says Rodriguez, an immigration lawyer in Corpus Christi, Texas. “These business owners are creating a lot of jobs in our community, whether it’s in the construction field, or whether it’s a restaurant owner employing more than 15 people. People might not realize this business owner is here without documentation. But certainly, they’re creating jobs, paying business taxes and adding to our economy.”
It would be such an economic and humanitarian boost.
Rodriguez estimates that more than half of the city’s population is Hispanic. And while she recognizes that many of them are here without documentation, she’s quick to point out that many of them are doing their part to pay taxes and contribute. “It is possible for them to get a taxpayer identification number,” she says. “But a lot of people don’t know that’s an option, so part of our job is to encourage them to do that. Because they want to pay taxes.” She adds that many Americans assume that people who are here illegally are trying to avoid paying taxes, which “simply couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Rodriguez would like to see reform that allows undocumented workers to have legal status, so they can get a driver’s license, buy health insurance and automatically pay income taxes. She’d also be in support of reinstating laws that allow undocumented immigrants to pay a fine in order to stay in the United States and receive a green card. “That would solve so many problems,” she says. “It would be such an economic and humanitarian boost.”