We could mess up the so-called Texas miracle.
Cutting off immigration, for instance, “would make it impossible” for the state to keep growing jobs at roughly double the national rate, Dallas Fed economist Pia Orrenius said last week.
Keeping out immigrants would also take us out of the competition to attract top talent, another expert said, and that would undermine the appeal of the state’s workforce.
For these reasons and more — partly humanitarian, partly pragmatic, said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings — Dallas wants to become a more welcoming city for immigrants and refugees. That means recruiting newcomers and helping them integrate into the community, and navigate the legal and economic landscape.
Last year, Dallas created an Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs to ramp up the outreach. At a committee meeting last week, it unveiled a long list of goals developed with a task force of 85 contributors. Their ideas include boosting the number of naturalized citizens, increasing their participation in local government and promoting growth in minority owned businesses.
These newcomers need help, Rawlings said on Friday, and Dallas needs their help — and the office can make a difference.
“It’s not just do-gooders trying to make us all feel good,” Rawlings told about 85 people at a session on immigration at the Dallas Regional Chamber. “There’s a lot of math and science” that justifies the effort.
Start with this: 40.3 percent of Dallas’ population growth since 2011 has come from immigrants. They now account for almost 1 in 4 city residents, a higher ratio than in the state and nation.
Almost 70 percent of construction workers in Dallas are foreign-born, as are almost a third of the entrepreneurs. Immigrants are much more likely to have a college degree than the overall population, which helps compensate for the state’s college deficit. And a higher share of immigrants are working age, which is important as more baby boomers retire and fewer move here from other states.
Rawlings has been working on a plan for Dallas’ future, and he urged business leaders to support immigration because that will be a big part of it.
“One could argue that where we end up in 2030 is really going to depend on how we deal with this issue,” he told the audience.
Immigration is front and center because it’s become such a hot political topic. The Trump administration has focused on border security and tighter enforcement of immigration laws, and has proposed scaling back legal immigration. Many state leaders have taken a hard line, too.
Cities have responded by sending another message: that they value immigrants and that they’re crucial to the economic and social fabric of the community.
In Dallas, almost 15,000 local manufacturing jobs would have vanished or moved elsewhere if not for immigrants, according to a study by the New American Economy. In the larger Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, over 63,000 are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects undocumented immigrants brought here as children.