Texas Companies Tie Worker Shortages to Immigration Fears

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Though construction is in high demand in Texas’ booming capital city, Oscar Martinez’s drywall company is suddenly struggling.

One-third of the approximately 20 employees Martinez uses to build new homes and commercial spaces have recently fled the state, spooked by a combination of a federal immigration crackdown by the Trump administration and a tough anti-“sanctuary cities” law approved last month by Texas’ Republican-controlled Legislature.

“I took a big hit since my workers started hearing crazy stories about being deported, and they panicked,” said Martinez, who relies on immigrants in the U.S. illegally for labor and has failed to find replacements for the physically grueling, precise work.

“The Americans I hire can’t last in this job more than half a day,” Martinez said.

Similar fears have sent shockwaves through many sectors of the U.S. economy. In most cases, demographers and economic experts say it’s too early to quantify the full impact of workforce shortages fueled by immigration fears, but anecdotal evidence is widespread.

“I’ve heard from growers, construction, and the service industry about a destabilization of the workforce in Texas and around the country,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based immigrants’ rights advocacy group. “It’s definitely happening more in states that are considering major immigration enforcement policies.”

The issue is particularly pronounced in Texas because it’s a conservative state and has one of the largest populations of immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally. Texas’ new law has exacerbated more general fears among immigrants about immigration policies becoming stricter nationwide under President Donald Trump.

Opponents have dubbed it the “show me your papers” law because it allows police to ask about the immigration status of anyone they stop and requires them to turn over immigrants to U.S. immigration authorities upon request. Sheriffs and other police officials who don’t comply could see their departments fined and could personally face criminal charges and be booted from office. The law is aimed at so-called sanctuary cities — a term with no legal definition that loosely refers to jurisdictions where police have traditionally refrained from enforcing U.S. immigration law.

By Meredith Hoffman for Yahoo Finance
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