On May 16, 2019, Trump released an immigration plan that would eliminate the current family-based immigration system and replace a points-based system.

It is true that the family reunification process has problems. The process is complicated, prohibitively expensive for many families, and there are exceptionally long wait times for family members to see their applications approved, keeping families separated. The processing times for immigration applications have increased 46% under Trump. For family petitions, the issue is complicated by the fact that there are quotas limited there is no quota for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens applying to join family members already granted residency, other family members are subject to quotas that can result in decades-long wants for applications to be processed. There are inequities in this wait time based on where people come, with countries like Mexico and the Philippines experiencing the longest delays.

(Andrew Harnik/AP)

Trump’s plan does not address these concerns with the immigration system.

At its core, the President’s proposal – which would need Congressional approval, would keep families separated and discourage diversity. Also concerning is the fact that the proposal completely ignores DACA recipients and immigrants with TPS, whose status in the United States has been incredibly tenuous since the administration began dismantling the programs in 2017.

The President outlined a faster asylum processing system, but gave no details. Under his proposal, however, asylum and diversity admissions would fall from 22% to 10%. We know that faster adjudications do not conform with due process and can lead to the miscarriage of justice. Advocates want timely adjudications, but the process must ensure that each claim is individually and carefully considered by impartial judges.

The President’s proposal continues his odious legacy of separating families. Families are crucial for new immigrants’ ability to adjust to the United States socially and economically. Having family in the U.S. helps integrate new immigrants through critical support like housing, employment opportunities, access to credit, and other resources. Family members who have lived in the United States for a while also help newcomers understand American culture and institutions. Immigrants who come to the country on a family-based visa tend to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Research shows that while family immigration is generally associated with lower initial earnings, it has higher earnings growth than employment-based immigration. Family-based migration also means individuals can stay in the workforce longer, because adult children, siblings and parents play a crucial role in caring for children and family members as they age.

The Trump Administration would have us believe that the United State’s immigration system does not bring “the best and the brightest.” We know, however, that our immigrant communities are vibrant, entrepreneurial, and most importantly, as diverse and deserving of dignity as all US-born citizens.  In Houston, immigrants are 53% more likely to start businesses than their American-born peers. Fifty-one percent of all U.S. start-up companies valued at $1 billion have at least one immigrant founder. Houston needs all kinds of workers in an all sectors of the economy, both high-wage and low-wage, technical and manual. Some of the fastest-growing jobs sectors are in home health care, the food service industry and construction. Family-based migration has a positive impact on business development and community improvement, as immigrants help revitalize less desirable neighborhoods.

We benefit from the contributions of our immigrant neighbors, and it is time we show we value them. We need an improved immigration system that is fair, diverse, family-oriented and that provides a path to legal status and citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already deeply rooted in the United States.

The Trump administration proposes sweeping changes that endanger the lives of immigrant families, including families with children born in the United States. The proposed “public charge” rule changes would strongly prejudice immigration pathways toward higher-income people, while raising new high barriers for prospective immigrants if they have lower incomes, or have used government benefits.

December 12, 2016 – At a press conference today, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, reiterated that Houston – the most diverse city in the country – is a welcoming and safe place for all who live here.

“The Collaborative supports the Mayor’s commitment to create and uphold policies that assure the safety and well-being of all Houstonians,” says Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) Legal Director Andrea Guttin.  “As a key partner in the Welcoming Houston initiative, HILSC is working to ensure that the legal and social needs of the immigrant and refugee communities in Houston are met.”

Houston is a city of immigrants.  Their history is deeply rooted in our city.  They are our neighbors; they run many small businesses and work in all of Houston’s diverse industries; they are the families at our schools, churches, temples and mosques. One out of every four Houstonians was born outside of the United States.  Attacks on immigrants and other marginalized communities are attacks on working Houston families.  HILSC applauds the Mayor’s pledge to protect everyone – whether Latino, Black, LGBTQ, Muslim, immigrant, refugee, disabled, or none of the above – from hate, discrimination, and other forms of mistreatment.

As members of HILSC, we will continue to provide legal and other services to immigrant and refugee families and other vulnerable communities.  During this time of uncertainty and change, it is critical that immigrants and others who have questions get accurate, reliable information.  Trustworthy organizations that provide free and low-cost immigration legal advice can be found on the Collaborative’s list of member organizations: www.houstonimmigration.org/#members.

Press Coverage

Mayor Turner takes stance on immigration (KHOU – Channel 13)

Officials discuss efforts to welcome immigrants, refugees to Houston (KPRC – Channel 2)

City unveils new office to aid immigrants (Houston Chronicle)

Turner Pledges to Protect Immigrants, But Avoids Calling Houston “Sanctuary City” (Houston Press)

Houston Officials Reiterate They Will Not Ask About Immigration Status, Create New Office To Help (Houston Public Media)

Mayor Turner, HPD chief assure immigrant and refugee community it’s safe despite Trump win (CW39)

Mayor Turner announces initiative to protect immigrants (Fox26)

Sylvester Turner anunció la apertura de una nueva oficina para inmigrantes y refugiados (Univision)

Alcalde Turner rediseña oficina de servicio para inmigrantes (Telemundo)

AUGUST 3, 2016 – The City of Houston Office of International Communities, Neighborhood Centers and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative announced a partnership that will make Houston an official “Welcoming City” committed to creating a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees.  The partnership will launch a multi-sector strategic planning effort focused on welcoming and integrating new Americans.

Houston joins numerous municipal governments that have signed on as Welcoming Cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and New York City.  Welcoming Cities is an initiative of Welcoming America, a national nonprofit organization with expertise in local innovations that advance civic, economic and linguistic integration.

Immigrant Integration Strategic Plan

The Welcoming Houston initiative will bring together leaders from the nonprofit, business, education, faith and cultural sectors to develop a multi-sector strategic plan focused on improving opportunities and advancing integration for foreign-born residents.

“As a Welcoming City, Houston is committed to building an inclusive environment where all communities have the opportunity to contribute to our economy and vibrant civic, social and cultural fabric,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.  “We are the most diverse city in the nation.  With that distinction comes the responsibility of ensuring that we are also an inclusive and equitable city where everyone has fair access to jobs, education, essential services and a voice in local government.  This strategic plan will help guide us as we work toward that goal.”

The plan will set forth recommendations focused on economic mobility, access to services, education, language access, public safety and legal status.  Welcoming Houston partners will present the plan to the mayor in November as part of the city’s observance of Citizenship Month.

“This plan will continue to make Houston a welcoming place of opportunity for all,” said Angela Blanchard, President and CEO of Neighborhood Centers.  “Through this collaboration, we will ensure our city enhances our position as one of the most attractive destinations for immigrants looking for a place where they feel welcomed, they can work and they can build a future for themselves and their families.”

“This strategic planning process will only work if a wide array of stakeholders is engaged,” said Kate Vickery, Executive Director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, a local coalition representing many immigrant-serving nonprofit organizations.  “We are looking forward to working with members of the public and private sector to make recommendations on how Houston can be more welcoming to its incredibly rich and growing immigrant populations.”

The planning effort is supported by the Gateways for Growth Challenge, an initiative of Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE) and Welcoming America.  Houston is one of 20 communities nationwide selected to receive support for immigrant integration planning.

The strategic plan will be presented to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as part of Citizenship Month in November. Implementation of the recommendations will be the responsibility all of the involved stakeholders.

Immigrant Population Economic Impact

Current data on the impact of the foreign-born population in Texas and Houston, including tax contributions, spending power and role in key industries as leaders and job creators, supports the importance of building a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees.

The initiative will be informed by a recent report published by NAE revealing that Houston’s foreign-born population has grown 17% from 2009 to 2014 – accounting for 34% of the overall population growth in the region. Foreign-born residents contributed $116.5 billion to the region’s GDP and held $31.8 billion in spending power in 2014. While the foreign-born make up one-quarter of the overall-population, they are 32% of the employed labor force and 42% of the self-employed labor force. Foreign-born residents in Houston are twice as likely to own their own businesses than their U.S.-born counterparts. Welcoming Cities demonstrate their commitment to ensuring the inclusion and long-term economic integration of newcomers.

The launch of Welcoming Houston also coincides with the Reason for Reform national campaign, which brings together state business, civic and cultural leaders to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform. A statewide report on the economic contributions of immigrants in Texas was released as part of the Reason for Reform campaign.

Further reading

New Americans in Houston: A Snapshot of the Demographic and Economic Contributions of Immigrants in the Houston Area (NAE Report)

The Contributions of New Americans in Texas (NAE Report)

Media Coverage

Houston moves to become ‘Welcoming City’ for immigrants (Houston Chronicle)

Report: Immigrants inject over $116 billion into Houston’s GDP (Houston Chronicle)

Houston Launches Effort to Welcome Immigrants, Refugees (ABC13)

Officials and community members meet to discuss immigration reform at the local level (Fox26)

City leaders launch Welcoming Houston initiative (Defender Network)

Houston Becomes an Official “Welcoming City” (Houston Public Media)

Our Welcoming City (Houston Chronicle editorial)