Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Mike Lee 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. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy. The Joint Economic Committee hearing was held on May 7, 2013:

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
…I too am pro-immigrant, pro-immigration reform. We’re a nation of immigrants. I hope we always will be. And I agree that we need to make it possible for people to come into this country through the front door.

I want to start with you, Mr. Norquist, and follow up on a statement you made a few minutes ago dealing with the fact that one of the reasons why we’ve got 11 million or so immigrants in illegal status today has to do with the fact that we have a legal immigration system that doesn’t function properly. It doesn’t operate in such a way that allows our immigration system to keep pace with economic realities, with the demand of our economy.

So one question I have for you is in your opinion, does the Gang of Eight proposal deal with this adequately? So separate and apart from the fact that it would take those currently here illegally and put them on a path to citizenship, eventually, if it also doesn’t deal with the inadequacy of the current visa system, eventually, that problem is going to creep up and we’ll have more illegal immigration. Would you agree with that?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Yeah, you need to do something about future flow as well as past flows and status.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
Does this deal with that adequately in your opinion?

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
In my view, no. I think both the H-1B numbers should be more robust, the total number of immigration should be more robust, the guest worker program should be more robust. Is this progress as opposed to – look, I’m all in favor of compromising towards liberty and progress. This is a step in the right direction. Is it a step enough in the right direction? I think it could go further. But the world is a better place if that bill, unamended, passed than if it doesn’t pass. Can it be a better bill with better results for the future? Sure, absolutely. That’s what the amendment process is for.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
Okay, but eventually you think additional adjustments would be necessary in terms of opening up more visas in both high-skilled and non-high skilled areas?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
It may be that that can only happen sufficiently after people have seen the success of 1.0 on immigration reform but that is the direction that history suggests we need to go in.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
Dr. Kugler, I’d like to refer to a statement that was made in the New York Times on March 17th of this year. The Times reported that as a side benefit waiting a decade would mean that the cost of the overhaul would not kick in until the second decade because illegal immigrants do not qualify for government benefits until after they’ve earned green cards. That means the 10-year cost estimates by the Congressional Budget Office would not include the expense of those benefits. The question I have for you is how meaningful are the CBO’s cost estimates that we have if they’re based on projections that use a 10-year window and the projected costs of the bill take those estimates outside the 10-year window because they hold off for more than 10 years the moment when there might be some direct entitlement and welfare implications of the bill? Do you understand the question?

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
Yes. I understand what you’re saying. So we have the 10-year window and in 13 years you’ll have access to naturalization and citizenship. You’re right that then you won’t be entitled to many of the transfer programs, many of those benefit programs. But by the same token, it is true that we know that there’s about a 10% gain just moving from legal status to citizenship and that’s not taking into account to that. So it works on both ends actually. You’re right that there’s that issue about the cost side of things but on the benefit side, there are other things that immigrants won’t be qualified for including some of the access to more entrepreneurship, loans, to other things that may also contribute in a dynamic sense.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
And so do you think it’s a wash then when you take those things into account? Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012:
Yes.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 19th of this year, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, noted that the 2007 immigration bill had a cost of $18 billion over a decade, stating that such an amount would be “swamped” by other changes. And he dismissed it more or less as a budgetary wash. Do you think members of Congress, members of the Senate or the House, whether they call themselves conservatives or not, do you think they should think of $18 billion as a budgetary wash?

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
Look, $18 billion is a significant number. So is $2.7 trillion which is his estimate of increased revenue over the additional spending from the reform that looks like the one we’re looking at now.

So all costs are costs. In this situation, as Holtz-Eakin points out, the growth of the economy and the benefits you get from something like the Senate plan is much greater.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
And could you support it if you became convinced that the net cost was greater – that there was a net cost and that net cost wasn’t offset somewhere else?

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
Well, first of all, the bill has no tax – the Senate bill that one can look at and read has no tax increases. There are fines for people who’ve crossed the border illegally.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah):
…I’m just focused on what if it resulted in more outlays.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
…I’m focused on making sure taxes don’t go up and that total government spending as a percentage of GDP goes down, and spending as a percentage of GDP would fall by any way you analyze the kind of reform that the Senate’s doing. I mean, spending goes up every year. Does it go up faster than the economy is the question of how damaging it is.

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2 Comments on “Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Mike Lee on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy – Joint Economic Committee hearing on May 7, 2013

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Roger Wicker on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy - Joint Economic Committee hearing on May 7, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: 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 | What The Folly?!

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