A day after resigning as adviser to the National Diversity Coalition, Javier Palomarez, CEO and president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce who lives in Dallas, says he plans to continue lobbying the Trump administration on immigration issues. In an interview with D CEO, Palomarez said the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program made no sense, financially or culturally.
“When you consider DACA from the economic perspective, these Dreamers are not costing that American taxpayer; they pay in excess of $2 billion in local and state taxes,” he said. “To get rid of them would cost the American taxpayer in excess of $60 billion at a time when we’re still grappling with the devastation of Harvey, with Irma looming, and all of these other challenges. Of all the things the president could’ve done … he goes and does this.”
Palomarez heard the news about an hour before it went public Tuesday. Over the weekend, no one was quite sure what Trump was going to do about the DACA program, not even Trump himself, Palomarez said. So when the news broke, Palomarez released a statement in strong opposition.
“When it came to immigration, the proverbial line in the sand was the people … whose lives were in the balance,” Palomarez said Wednesday. “When that line was crossed, it became clear to me what we needed to do.”
Though he’s stepped down from his post with the coalition, Palomarez, a Democrat, said he will not stop working with politicians on both sides of the aisle regarding this and future matters. “We’ve seen political courage from several members of Republican leadership,” he said, citing U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Sen. John McCain, both of whom have spoken about their support for Dreamers. “I believe they will step up to the task again.”
Palmomarez has already entered into an agreement to speak with McCain twice a day every day for the next two weeks. He also plans to continue conversations with various members of Trump’s cabinet, including U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and White House adviser Ivanka Trump. “This doesn’t mean we’re going to quit working on what’s right for the American people and small businesses,” Palomarez said about his resignation. “It does mean I don’t think our president is willing to listen to reason with issues having to do with immigration.”
Palomarez was critical of Trump prior to the election, supporting the chamber’s decision to back Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But when Trump won the election, Trump’s administration reached out to Palomarez at 5:30 a.m. the next day and asked him to serve as an adviser to the coalition. “When all of us … were convinced Hillary was going to win, we called on Donald Trump to respect the will of the people,” Palomarez said, adding that after the upset, they had some big decisions to make. “One was [answering], are we big enough to do what we asked him to do? So we had to do the right thing.”
For Palomarez, that meant taking the advisory position. During his time as adviser, he took 23 Hispanic business owners to meet with several members of the administration. He also took 10 farmers to meet with Perdue: “To their credit, they were more than willing to listen to my constituency.”
But when talks about immigration arose at the White House, Palomarez became concerned. As the son of migrant farm workers, Palomarez grew up in a house with dirt floors and no running water or electricity. He learned English as a second language and used education to help him rise to where he is today. So he knows what the journey looks like for many immigrants, and believes targeting 800,000 people affected by DACA is wrong.
“These are the driven, bright young people we want in this country,” he said. In order to do what’s right for business and for the country, politicians across the board are going to have to come together, he said.
“This is not a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue,” he said. “This is when we come together to send a message to the White House that … we [the people] run the country. They work for us.”