The chilling effect of immigration policies on some industries is expected to be a topic of discussion as the leaders of some of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the country gather in Dallas for a three-day convention starting Sunday.
This is the second time the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which claims to represent more than 4.2 million businesses that contribute over $668 billion to the national economy, is holding its annual gathering in Dallas.
The convention comes at a critical time for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where a severe labor shortage has been stifling the construction industry that relies heavily on an immigrant workforce. And, as President Donald Trump seeks to implement more restrictive immigration policies, business owners are worried about the impact.
Javier Palomarez, the chamber’s chief executive, said he believes immigration will be an important part of the discussion, especially the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young immigrants — brought here as children and living in the country illegally — from deportation and allows them to legally work.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (right) spoke with Javier Palomarez during the 2010 installment of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce national convention.
“We believe that it is imperative that we recognize these 800,000 young people, who were brought here by no choice of their own. The Dreamers have a better employment [rate] than native citizens,” Palomarez said. “If anything, we want to employ these people.”
Palomarez was referring to a survey by the Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank Center for American Progress, which found that more than 90 percentof DACA recipients are employed.
Earlier this month, Trump announced plans to phase out the program, giving Congress six months to develop a legislative solution. Palomarez said he has been in contact with members of the Trump administration.
Besides immigration, access to capital and credit to grow their businesses is a key challenge for Hispanic businesses. The conference and the various discussions would help attendees learn about overcoming those challenges, Palomarez said.
One of the key panels at the convention features Palomarez interviewing Wells Fargo chief executive Tim Sloan. Wells Fargo, the third-largest U.S. bank, has admitted that some 3.5 million fake accounts were opened without the knowledge of customers by employees seeking to meet aggressive sales goals. Hispanic consumers were particularly targeted.
“Well, we are going to talk exactly about that,” Palomarez said. “Not only the challenges that they are facing, but how can the public rest assured that Wells Fargo is putting the proper procedures in place?”
The scandal resulted in regulatory fines of $185 million last year, and the bank settled a class-action suit for another $142 million this year. On Tuesday, a day after the tete-a-tete with Palomarez in Dallas, Sloan is scheduled to answer questions from members of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee in Washington about the fake-account scandal.
Hispanic businesses and consumers are an increasingly important and growing part of the North Texas economy, according to Edward Rincon, president of Rincon & Associates, a Dallas-based consumer research firm. There are at least 117,582 businesses in D-FW that are run by Hispanics, Rincon said, citing recent research.
“Businesses — non-Hispanic and Hispanic — that depend on labor have seen a chilling effect with losing their workforce. Some of the impact is felt in our community here,” Rincon said.
Palomarez described Hispanics as vital in the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries and cited the contributions of high-skilled immigrants who are working in technology.
“We represent a broad swath of the American economy,” Palomarez said.