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

Partial transcript of Q&A with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy. The Joint Economic Committee hearing was held on May 7, 2013:

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.):
…I’m one of the key sponsors in the House of Representatives for Start-up 3.0. I’ve been a firm believer in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] in not only helping our young people born here in the United States to do STEM but also to encourage those who come from abroad to stay here for a while. And I feel conflicted about that because if they do return to their country, then they make economic [progress] there, and then maybe we don’t have as much immigration going on either. But I’m a firm believer in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – my own background.

But I also think it’s important that we let others in besides just STEM people when we look at our immigration. I look at my mom and dad – both immigrants from Mexico – with not a whole lot of education. And my father started out in a factory and ended up owning businesses in that industry. And my mother ended up after sending seven kids to university going back and getting her GED and her college and her Master’s and teaching for 17 years in the public schools – young people – and really making a name for herself in that industry.

So my question to you is – oh and by the way, they’re the only two parents ever in the history of the United States to have two daughters in the United States Congress. So I think in one generation it’s a tribute to hard work, innovation, desire to succeed, love of America that I believe immigrants, in particular, bring to this country because they chose to be here.

So my question to you is should we not also – because I know there’s a lot of desire to limit only to STEM or people with Ph.D. or people with money to be immigrants to this country – I think there’s a lot to be said for someone like my father who came here, who learned English here, who worked hard, who got cheated in every single way along the way as immigrants do when they first come to this country but managed somehow to overcome that and sends two daughters to – as he calls it – the board of directors of America incorporated. So you can tell where he’s coming from when he says those words.

Can you talk a little bit about why it might be important to not just select the cream of the crops from some other countries but why it’s important to have others have a chance at being Americans?

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
Congresswoman Sanchez, what an inspiring story of your family. I want to say that yes, there are very important skilled jobs in high-tech manufacturing but that also include production workers not only the innovators and STEM workers. There are important skilled jobs in health – some of those jobs in health – the ones that are growing the fastest and that are expected to grow the fastest in the next 10 years – don’t necessarily even require a college education. There are some important skilled jobs for information, for computer science – again, some of those jobs are not requiring necessarily very high levels of education. And of course, we know that in agriculture there are very important needs.

So I completely agree with you. It’s not only the skill as measured by the level of education, but it’s the skills measured in terms of particular tasks that can be performed in the job. For example, I want to give the example of agriculture. In agriculture, we know that about 65% of those working in agriculture do not have a high school degree. But nonetheless, more than 70% of them have been working in agriculture for more than 5 years. Presumably, they have very specialized skills to work in the fields and to know what to do in terms of their harvest and post-harvest periods. So those are skills even though they are not measured as years of education.

Likewise, in production, right? You can think the electricians, carpenters. In construction, we hear this all the time. That’s why the W visas are also very important. It’s important to allow the non-skilled immigrants as well to come in and satisfy those skill gaps.

Of course, it would be great to train people here in the U.S. and I think that’s why vice chair Klobuchar said is very important that we use some of that money also and we get even in high-tech some of those high-tech firms to train our own workers to do those jobs eventually.

But in the short-term, those skill gaps won’t be met if we don’t let some of those people from abroad come in to meet those.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
Yeah, American history suggests you’re right. I mean, we didn’t ask people to have Ph.D.s when they came over the last 300 years and a lot of people came with raw talent and moved up. And so we do immigration and upward mobility both.


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