Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Chris Murphy 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. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy. The Joint Economic Committee hearing was held on May 7, 2013:

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.):
…Mr. Norquist, I want to get back to the portion of your testimony talking about the demographic reality of the globe 18, 20, 25 years from now. If anybody wants to have a little bit of fun, you should at the predictions of average age by country in 2030. It’s actually not a prediction – it’s science because everybody who’s going to be alive in 2030 is alive today.

But China today is four years younger than us; it’ll be five years older. Japan will be – will have an average age of 52. The average age in European countries will be five to 10 years older than the United States. And having just recently come back from an economic conference between U.S. leaders and European leaders, they look at us with envy because in addition to the energy revolution happening here and our relative state of economic growth to European nations, they just look at this demographic advantage that we have dependent on immigration policy continuing to head in the direction that allows us to remain relatively young as one of our chief strengths.

So I just want to allow you to expand a little bit on those comments because I think people fail to recognize the enormous advantage that we have that is dependent on us getting immigration right. We’re going to move in a matter of 18 years from 37 to 39; we’re only going to become two years older on average as a nation despite all of the attention given to the enormous number of people graduating into the ranks of Medicare and Social Security rolls but immigration is a key part of this.

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Sometimes, people do say, you know, our national defense and our strength in the world is based on our economy, which is true. But that’s also based an awful lot on the workforce. The size of the workforce, the quality of the workforce, and the age of the workforce. I mean, China’s challenge is not just eventually the number of – they only have one child per couple – eventually total number of Chinese people declines in the world but the decline of people in working age occurs sooner and is much more dramatic.

I mean, Europe isn’t going to disappear in terms of number of people. It’s going to be old. It’s going to be a bunch of people who are generally older and out of the workforce hanging around visiting cathedrals that were built 200 years ago or 500 years ago. And we can go visit and stuff but it’s going to be a little tedious.

So this is a challenge and it’s an opportunity. It’s strength, core competitive. I mean, if we were a company, you’d say what’s your competitive advantage versus other countries? Our ability to do immigration well, which is why getting an immigration reform bill that strengthens our immigration systems so we can have more immigrants, better immigrants, and have a secure legal status for the people who come, and certainly in terms of border security for people you don’t want to come. Getting this better is extremely helpful because it’s one of the things we do well. It’s not like, “Oh, it’s vaguely interesting. It’s over here and if we screw it up, it doesn’t matter.” It’s what we do better than the rest of the world and we need to continue to do that and there’s some obvious failures over the last 20 years we’ve had opportunities on STEM, on high-tech immigration, on H-1B visa, on guest worker, on coming up with how to deal with Dreamers and so on. We need to move now. So I’m all in favor of taking time over the next few weeks, next few months, but we could have done this 10 years ago.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.):
Dr. Kugler, I wanted to talk about a criticism that’s lodged all over the country and certainly in Connecticut where people talk about immigrants whether they’d be without documentations or with documentations stealing our jobs. And the data that I’ve seen doesn’t necessarily suggest that that’s true. The data that I’ve seen suggest that the skills that normally come into this country complement rather than simply replicate the skills of American workers, and even those American workers are out of the work force looking for jobs. Now, it’s not always the case but I just want to give you a chance to respond to that common criticism. I think you referenced it a little bit in your testimony but it’s an important piece of the push back that a lot of us hear back home.

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
That’s a very important issue. As I mentioned in my testimony, the most recent studies actually suggest that if anything there may be even gains in terms of earnings for the native-born as a result of immigration. In fact, there’s have been [incomprehensible audio] studies finds that an increase in immigration that happened between 1993 and 2004 increased earnings for highly-skilled U.S. workers by about 1%.

I also find very similar results. In fact, I look at a group of people who may be more likely to be substitutable, who may be more likely to be taking the same jobs and nonetheless I can’t find any evidence of that. So I look at Latino immigration and the impact that they had on native-born Hispanics and in fact I find that a 10% increase in Latino immigration increases the earnings of Hispanics who are more highly educated by about 1% and it has little displacement effects on even earlier immigrants who may be more likely to take the same jobs. So what happens is that they tend to specialize, they do different tasks, they take different jobs. And so we actually find very little evidence of displacement, and if anything positive impacts on the earnings of the native-born not only in other sectors but also because as I said before they’re also consumers. And so for example, in retail, there are huge increases in employment once immigrants come into local communities, it’s because they demand those services and those products and that increases employment in other sectors as well.


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