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

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

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
…Mr. Norquist, very interesting prepared testimony. On page two of your testimony, you make the flat statement that people are an asset not a liability, and I think I can extrapolate from that what you mean is illegal status people and legal status people regardless are assets. On page three of your testimony, you talk about the Arizona experience and compare that to New Mexico and California. And basically, do I understand your testimony to be that in persuading one way or another illegal immigrants to leave Arizona, that has harmed the Arizona economy as compared to California and New Mexico where more illegals were allowed to stay there. Is that your testimony?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
On the first part, people are an asset, liability is that people produce more than they consume and that there’s the old Malthusian worldview that if you have another baby born in the country, we’re all poorer because you’d have to divide everything that we have by one more person. The idea of the whole zero population growth campaign, which also is associated with and manages the anti-immigrant organizations, their view is that people are a liability. More people make us poorer. And that is a world view.

I think they’re wrong. I think historically, with 300 million people in the country, we’re slightly richer when there were 3 million people in the country. And that more people in a free society where people are allowed to innovate and operate in a free society the country is richer with more people rather than less people.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
Okay, well, apply that then to the Arizona versus New Mexico and California experience. You’re saying they’re an asset to California and New Mexico regardless of their legal status.

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Sure. Well, the argument in Arizona at the time was, “Oh, if these people weren’t here, unemployment numbers would get better, the economy would be better because they’re a drain.” When they left, things got worse. Unemployment was problematic compared to other similarly situated states.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
Things got worse as a direct result of their leaving, is that your testimony?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Well, if you have another hearing, we can look at it…

[Overlapping audio]

The fellow who put that piece of legislation together got recalled so somehow it wasn’t viewed as a particularly good idea. And the two Senators from the state are two of the most outspoken advocates of comprehensive immigration and both got re-elected with those positions. So the idea that Arizona per se is happy with that law – what they did is they made it a crime to stand on the side of the road and look for work. And I’m not sure that that was a good idea…

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
…There’s always a difficulty extrapolating why people vote for whoever.

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Watch the next governor…

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
Let me ask you this, Mr. Norquist. If we didn’t have the 12 million illegals in the United States now, what would the economic effects have been?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Well, you can look at where people came in. These are people who – there was no legal opportunity…

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
Would it be positive or negative if we didn’t have those 12 million illegal immigrants?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
GDP would be smaller.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.):
Okay, so from an economic perspective, should we – how should we be picking and choosing, Mr. Norquist? Who should we encourage to immigrate to the United States? Should we have a point system and what can we learn from other countries who aggressively encourage immigration, such as Canada and New Zealand and Australia?

Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform:
Well, you’ve got different examples through American history. The reason that you have the illegal population is we once had a guest worker program. We had lots of illegals and we had a guest worker program. They were arresting 800,000 people a year on the border before ICE put in a guest worker program. Then they were arresting 45,000 people at the border. Then the labor unions didn’t like it so they got rid of the guest worker program and they were arresting a million at the border and people came in illegally. If you don’t have a guest worker program or a legal way to come in permanently or temporarily and work, people will come in around the system. And that was created by U.S. law – flawed U.S. immigration law – not having a guest worker program, not having enough legal immigration to fit the needs. A lot of high-tech people never came here. They went and started companies in other countries. A lot of work just didn’t get done. So reforming that is very important.

Look, there are all sorts of ways that the whole STEM idea of allowing people who’ve got certain skills and saying we need X number of guys in the high-tech industry is step one. But there’s also a need for people who work in the ranching, the dairy, and farming, where there aren’t folks coming in from the domestic market. Whether you do that through permanent immigration or through a guest worker program, those positions are needed for the economy. If you didn’t have them, we’d be worse off…

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