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Why Our Businesses Need Executive Action on Immigration

Over the past week, politicians have argued about whether or not President Barack Obama should take administrative action to protected undocumented immigrants and their families. But for small business owners like me, the case is clear: the president should act quickly and boldly.

I’m the proud, tax-paying owner of Latina Beauty Variedades, a clothing and perfume store in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I’ve owned my business for four years, and I’ve been proud to be of service to my community and watch my business grow.

When I first came to this country from Uruguay 12 years ago to find a better life for my family, it was hard to make ends meet. So I started working cleaning houses. After several years of doing this back-breaking work to just barely survive, in 2010 I decided that I would not let anyone else be my boss. I started my own small business. But, because I was undocumented, I could not access credit through banks, so I had to use my savings from cleaning jobs to get my business up and running.

My business is now doing well, but my family lives with the constant fear of being separated. I live here with my husband and my two daughters. All but one of us are undocumented: one of my two daughters benefited from President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, while the other missed the deadline by less than a month. But my children are American through and through. When the thought of going back to Uruguay comes up, my daughters simply say no. They’ve been raised here and this is their home.

The thought of having my family torn apart makes me shudder. Already, I’ve suffered from not being able to see my family, including my sick 81-year-old mother. While we talk every day, it’s been 12 years since I last saw her, and I am afraid she will pass away before I am able to see her again.

By taking bold action to protect immigrant families like mine, the president has the opportunity to shield me from this grief and keep my family together here in the United States.

But this is as much about making our economy thrive as it is about keeping families like mine together. A broad executive action would give business owners like me more security in our businesses and, as a result, encourage us to expand with greater investments.

The president has an opportunity to reward and incentivize immigrant entrepreneurship. And, by protecting millions of immigrant consumers, he would also give a boost to businesses like Latina Beauty Variedades by supporting the buying power of the immigrant community. With the right to work and protection from deportation, my customers would have more money and be willing to spend it, too.  New York’s communities need the boost!

Lastly, small businesses would benefit because we need the best talent available to thrive. Many of our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants are highly skilled and highly motivated.  We need their talents to help our businesses grow. So, while some have talked about only giving relief to parents of U.S. citizens, the president should go further and make sure to protect families like mine.

Congress has failed to get the job done, and it’s hurt families and small businesses alike. The time is now for bold executive action that protects as many immigrant families and businesses like mine as possible—both to respect the sanctity of our families and to unlock our entrepreneurial potential.

*Leda Mora is the owner of Latina Beauty Variedades and a member of Make the Road New York’s Small Businesses United project.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Comprehensive Immigration Reform, immigrant entrepreneurship, executive action, Barack Obama

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