Transcript: Testimony of Grover Norquist on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy at the Joint Economic Committee hearing on May 7, 2013

Partial transcript of the testimony of Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy. The Joint Economic Committee hearing was held on May 7, 2013:

…We don’t have to sort of go to equations or predictions.

We could look to our own history to see that as the United States has been the most immigrant-friendly, welcoming nation in the world, we’ve also become the richest, most powerful, most stable nation in the world.

And we could look around at other countries and see how we compare with those countries that do better have higher percentages of their workforce and their population as immigrants.

Being open to immigration has been part of United States’ success and some other countries have done well also.

We could look at Japan, which is a country that’s one, forgetting to have children but in addition to that isn’t culturally capable evidently of immigration. And as a result, what was supposedly – I mean, I went to business school in the 1980s and all I heard from everybody was that Japan is number one, they’re going to leave us in the dust. And then all of a sudden, they’ve left the playing field because one, they forgot to have kids, and two, they’re not capable of doing immigration.

China is in a similar position. We’re hearing all the same things about China as an economic challenge to the United States. They actually have immigration from the interior into the cities, but once you’ve finished that and they don’t do immigration from outside of China. And they’re going to get old before they get rich. They’re going to be old and not have enough – the number of people in China is eventually going to decline because they’re not doing immigration, but the number of the workforce declines faster in China.

We can look at Europe with similar challenges there. There, sometimes they do immigration – just not very well compared to the United States.

It’s one of our competitive edges in the world that we do immigration better than other people.

Now, we’ve been whining about it for 300 years since the Germans started sneaking into Pennsylvania a while ago. We’ve always felt that the new guys were a problem. The guys who were here a previous generation we’re married to and they’re our neighbors. But the new guys are probably not up to snuff.

We’ve just been through this again and again and again. We don’t even have to go to international comparisons.

We can take a look at what Arizona did recently when they decided to shoot themselves in the ankle with legislation which discouraged people who are in Arizona from staying. 200,000 people left. We have certain economic problems. They were worse in Arizona than in California, than in New Mexico.

For other reasons, you’d think Arizona would do better but after they passed the law, discouraged people left and those jobs weren’t picked up by other people. Unemployment in construction, unemployment in agriculture – it was not picked up by other people jumping in – some vast pool of people who were kept out of jobs by immigrants. And, again, in both construction and agriculture and food products, you saw declines in employment that flowed from that.

So, comparing the United States to other countries, comparing United States’ history, looking at state comparison where Arizona’s decided to be a bad example so that we can all study it.

And then you go to the questions where Doug Holtz-Eakin – the vice chair referenced his study recently which pointed to a bill similar to what the Senate’s been looking at – how that would dramatically increase not just GDP but the government’s balance sheet with more revenue coming in, dwarfing external costs.

One reason why bringing to legal status those people who came here without papers is that imagine just in your own life a sibling or a child of yours, you said, “Go out and accomplish everything you can in life but do so – you can’t get driver’s license, you’re not going to be able to fly on a plane, and every time you switch jobs, you have to worry somebody will arrest you.” That kind of depresses the kind of job and the productivity you could have as a worker.

When in ’86 those restrictions were removed for about 3 million people around the country through the amnesty program, the wages of those people jumped 15%. Okay? They didn’t get smarter or harder-working. They didn’t have these shackles put on them by the fear of living in the shadows.

So each of these suggest tremendous steps forward if we do more immigration – total numbers – but also as discussed earlier we need more high-skilled workers, we need guest worker programs because there’s a lot of need for low-skilled workers.

And when we think about dynamic economics, low-skilled workers have children and grandchildren that may not continue to be sugar cane cutters; they may be Senators…or they might become successful.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.):
That’s so noted.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
I should have stayed with lawyers…

The challenge is you have to look at this not just tomorrow where all of the workers give them legal status would do better but over time the idea that a low-skilled worker – the Chinese who came over to build the railroads didn’t stay in the railroad building business. And the Japanese who came over to be sugar cane cutters and the like didn’t stay as sugar cane cutters as they’ve moved forward and future generations did better.

So I think looking at this from a dynamic standpoint is very important and also taking out those costs that are associated with education, welfare, and entitlement programs that exist independent of immigration and not try and stick those on to the immigration debate gives us a good sense that the Senate’s legislation, which can be improved – it needs to be more high-tech positions, it needs more robust guest worker programs. These are steps in the right direction. It would be very helpful for the United States’ economy, and we can leave the rest of the world in the dust.

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