Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Dan Coats on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy – Joint Economic Committee hearing on May 7, 2013

Partial transcript of Q&A with Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy. The Joint Economic Committee hearing was held on May 7, 2013:

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
…Both Dr. Kugler and Mr. Norquist make compelling arguments for immigration. We’re all the product of that in time. I’m the son of an immigrant, unfortunately Mr. Norquist, turned out to be both a lawyer and a Senator. Apparently that doesn’t put me in very high status.

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Your children might work out.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
They might. Thanks to their mother, they might do that.

But I don’t think there’s any difference here or in the Congress relative to the importance of immigration to this country and the continued importance for ever more immigration to this country. The question is though how do we deal with illegal immigration in this country? And neither one of you distinguished between legal and illegal.

Now, maybe Dr. Kugler all the facts and statistics numbers that you threw out relative to the Fortune 500 and the accomplishments of immigrants, but was there a distinction between…legal and illegal immigrants in those numbers?

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
It’s very hard to distinguish in those numbers between the two. But I can tell you that we know that some of these illegals are included in here, some undocumented workers are included among the job creators and the self-employed, certainly among the consumers and among the workers.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
I understand that but you would agree that you can’t just simply come up with a number of the Fortune 500 without distinguishing…

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
No, I don’t think it would be included in the Fortune 500 but they’re included certainly among the workers, included among the self-employed, they’re included among the consumers.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
…I’m not disputing the fact that those who have come here illegally some have made great contributions to this country. The question is how do we go forward. I was here in 1986. I supported Ronald Reagan’s immigration policy. At that time, we had 3 million illegals. We were promised at the time that this would put an end to illegal, it would strengthen the legal, and now we have 13 [million] plus. It didn’t do the job. How do we know 10 years from now, 5 years from now, that we won’t be faced with, say, 23 million illegal immigrants? And shouldn’t we have a policy in place that finally addresses this issue?

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
Certainly. Let me answer the question. First of all, let me say that if there are any costs to immigration, they probably come from the illegal status that some of these immigrants have.

As far as I know, the numbers tell us that there are 11 million. I haven’t seen the 13 million that you’ve mentioned. I have seen 11 million as far as the best estimate on this issue.

There are certainly some costs. They may come on the fiscal side because we know that between 50 to 60 percent of these undocumented pay taxes. They actually don’t benefit. They may have a harder time, for example, setting up new businesses. So you may not benefit as much on that end from this illegal immigration.

But precisely we know that providing legal status is going to help us to further benefit from these 11 million people who are already here and who would obtain legal status would be able to gain at least 25% gain that I mentioned before, which are numbers that come from studies that were done after the 1986 reform.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
Thank you. Mr. Norquist, a question on the Heritage. My understanding is that – help me out here – before Heritage became what it is now as you described what it was before, I think there was a study done indicating that the number was $2.6 trillion, I believe, instead of the latest number out $6.7 or $6.3 or whatever it is. What should the number be from Heritage? Was that previous number a good number?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
The previous number was flawed for all the same reasons the present number is flawed – used households instead of individuals. There are a whole series of statisticians who looked at the first one and said, “I hope they’ll fix this.” They didn’t fix it. They doubled down, and then they added costs of legal immigrants – people who are here legally – and stick them in the $6 [trillion]. Educating a five-year-old who’s born in this country, who’s a citizen, is not a cost of passing the Senate bill. That’s going to be there.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
So the same assumptions used now…

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
And worse.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.):
…this number with the same assumption used.

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Yeah. It got worse actually – the quality of the work.

But on your question of legal versus illegal, look, we in the 1970s had a 55 an hour speed limit and there was all sorts of illegal driving going on. And we didn’t say, “You know, what we need to do is to arrest everybody who’s illegally driving over 65.” We said, “55 is not reasonable. The highway are built for 65, and in Montana, apparently 90. So let’s get up to a reasonable speed limit and then enforce the law.”

And the challenge we had in ’86 was they did some border enforcement, they did some amnesty, but they didn’t anything with future flows. We didn’t reform the immigration policy to give us the quantity of both low-skilled and tech, high-skilled workers so that as soon as we hit – the economy started to grow, there was no legal way to get in. It’s not like there were some other way for people to get employed. We didn’t have the numbers.

So what this legislation that the Senate’s put together begins to do is deal with that third part. What about the future? How do we not end up with a whole bunch of illegal immigration in the future the same way we ended up not having a bunch of illegal driving because you move the speed limit and the immigration numbers to a reasonable number of what the American economy needs both to grow and to help everybody who’s here already.

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