AUSTIN, TEXAS – If it weren't for people allowed into the United States under temporary work permits, Bill Carson doubts he'd be in business in Travis County, Texas.
The owner of Native Texas Nursery — a 40-acre tree and plant farm in East Austin — says he has trouble hiring U.S. citizens for the physically demanding, outdoor labor.
"And in an urban environment like Austin, [finding employees with agricultural skills]is even worse, because you have people who haven't grown up on a farm," Carson said.
He is among the members of the local and state business community — including owners of construction companies, high-tech executives and restaurateurs — who say they worry about the Trump administration's crackdown on certain categories of immigrants previously exempt from deportation and how it could affect an already stretched Texas workforce.
The administration says it plans to end protections for about 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the U.S. for at least the past 17 years. An estimated 36,000 of them reside in Texas, according to the Center for American Progress.
Salvadorans were granted temporary protected status, or TPS, after a pair of earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001, but the policy change means many now could be subject to deportation when it takes effect in September 2019.
At Native Texas Nursery, Carson's several dozen Hispanic immigrant employees either have temporary permits for agricultural workers or various forms of legal status, so they aren't directly affected by the potential policy changes. Still, Carson said the broad landscaping sector definitely will feel the "ripple effect" of the actions on its ability to hire.
"The people [with temporary protected status] who are now threatened with deportation, well, maybe they have some kids who work in the landscape industry," Carson said. "Every one of these programs, there is a ripple effect if you remove it."
Immigrants who have put down roots in Texas — and in some cases started their own businesses — say the end of the programs could be devastating for families.
Edwin Murillo, an El Salvador native living in Dallas with temporary protected status, opened an air-conditioning repair business about four years ago and had plans to expand it.
"Now our lives are in chaos," said Murillo, whose wife is a CPA assistant who also has temporary protected status. "Our daughters don't understand why their parents have to go back to an unsafe country."
Murillo said the most difficult part has been trying to explain the news to his U.S.-born children, ages 10 and 4. He said he's already noticed his 10-year-old's grades plummet since the family broke the news to her.
Advocates for ending the temporary protection program point out that it was never intended to grant permanent residency. As for DACA — which has provided amnesty for people brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children — opponents say extending it will encourage more violations of immigration laws.
But Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business, says: "We have to continue the [DACA] program — it is too vital to our state and our businesses not to," "We simply have to have the workforce."