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

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Jose Sic is a father of four and hardworking business owner. He fled Guatemala to escape poverty in his twenties, in pursuit of the American dream.

“I came to respect and love this country,” says Sic.

Jose’s built a life in Houston, creating jobs for many. He says that he’s undocumented and that status has made life hard.

“People who have papers are treated with much more flexibility than those of us who don’t have papers, we don’t have that privilege,” says Sic.

Two reports released at Wednesday’s Reason For Reform Texas Day of Action press conference detail the contributions immigrants have made to Houston and Texas’s economy.

The reports discuss the role immigrants have made as entrepreneurs and tax payers. According to the data, one in four Houstonians are foreign born and of the 4.2 million people that make up this city, 500,000 are undocumented. Many, living below the poverty line.

Kate Vickery, Executive Director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative says “the Supreme Court just failed to uphold the executive action that would have allowed about 200,000 folks in the Houston area to apply for temporary status.”

Vickery works with people like Jose. And while she knows changing Jose’s undocumented status has to come from the federal level, she believes there is more to do at the local level to make people in his situation’s lives easier.

“What we can do is a better job at ensuring that immigrant kids are getting full access to education and that immigrant populations and communities have adequate access to the police and aren’t afraid to report crimes,” says Vickery.

But everyone doesn’t agree with that approach and say those that come without documentation should leave and come back legally.

Stan Marek, President and CEO of Marek Companies has pioneered for immigration reform for decades. He says that if we “just give the workers legal status, they’ll come out of the shadows, they’ll pay their taxes." Marek says, "they want to do the right thing."

Angela Blanchard of Neighborhood Centers, also attended the press conference. She works directly with immigrants that are new to Houston, both documented and undocumented. Blanchard says ;"it’s still my life long conviction, that this country, needs to be that country, where if you plant that dream and water it with hard work it will pay off, I believe we owe that to the world.”