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National immigration battle will have big impact in Texas

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TWC News: National immigration battle will have big impact in Texas
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Texas has been on the forefront of the ongoing immigration debate.

"I mean, I think everyone is in agreement that the system is not working for the interest of anyone right now," said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business.

Protests and rallies calling for Congress to act have become commonplace on the streets of Austin in recent months.

"They want a chance to make a living," Hammond said.

And, just as much as they want to work, Hammond said, businesses have a need to put them to work.

"There should be an ebb and flow with the growth and decline in the economy,” he said. “Therefore, we don't think a bureaucrat sitting in Washington D.C. should be making the decisions about the number of legal immigrants that come to America. That should be driven by the economy."

Hammond said the state's agriculture, construction and hospitality industries rely heavily on immigrant labor.

"When the economy is doing reasonably well, there are not enough people who were born here that will take those jobs,” Hammond said. “That's why those three industries have learned to rely on immigrant labor and do so today."

But, supporters of immigration reform as it pertains to business -- say the potential benefits go beyond those sectors.

Local companies also complain about not being able to find the high-skilled talent that they need, particularly in the STEM field -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Rebecca De La Garza, vice president of federal and state advocacy for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports a federal initiative that would make it easier for certain college graduates from other nations to attain a green card.

"A lot of the time we're educating folks here at our universities, like UT Austin just down the road, but we're not retaining these folks in the United States,” De La Garza said. “They're going to foreign countries and they're working for competitors."

The Texas Association of Business hopes the political rhetoric in Washington doesn't cloud what they see as the economic reality.

"If we were somehow going to decide tomorrow we wanted to load them up on a Greyhound bus and send them back, our economy would collapse," Hammond said.

The U.S Senate has approved immigration reform legislation; however, there does not seem to be support for the overall plan in the House where there are plans to review the bill piece by piece.

While many Republicans and Democrats disagree on the logistics, they do agree the immigration system is broken and that something needs to be done.

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