Washington, D.C.— Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing examining the many ways comprehensive immigration reform would help secure our long-term fiscal health and help create a more vibrant and dynamic economy. Remarks as prepared are below:
Every day that we wait to fix our broken immigration system, more families are separated, children face horrendous conditions in detention centers, businesses face uncertainty, and we miss out on new economic opportunities. I spent most of 2013 as part of a bipartisan group of eight House members, meeting privately every day for seven months, working toward comprehensive immigration reform. And despite the current climate that makes it seem like there is no room for agreement on this issue, we were successful in forming a bold, bipartisan package we were confident would have passed the House had it been brought to the floor. It was a true bipartisan compromise, one that would have kept families together, protected our borders, and provided pathways to citizenship. And it was shelved because of politics.
By holding this hearing and pointing the spotlight on the economic benefits and opportunities of comprehensive immigration reform, it is my hope that the Budget Committee can re-start the process. That we can establish some common ground and help set the stage for bipartisan compromise that my experience tells me Democrats and Republicans can find.
We all share a desire and a responsibility to improve our economy and our budget outlook. And we have a great opportunity to do that through an immigration system that brings hardworking and creative people to our country.
Without question, our economy needs it. The Congressional Budget Office released its long-term budget outlook yesterday and it confirms some of what we already know: working-age Americans will account for a smaller portion of our total population. The costs of stalwart programs like Medicare and Social Security are increasing as our elderly population grows. And deficits continue to rise.
One way to improve our economic outlook and strengthen our fiscal position is by passing reforms that recognize both the cultural and economic contributions of the people who seek to make a home here. Welcoming more immigrants to the United States would boost GDP, increase business dynamism, enhance our ability to compete globally, shrink our deficits, and improve our long-term fiscal outlook. It is also the only realistic solution for addressing the slow growth of our labor force and alleviating some of our demographic challenges that put even greater pressure on federal budgets. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, have already helped extend the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, two of the biggest drivers of our long-term budget challenges. Increasing immigration would continue to improve the financial outlook for these vital programs.
And there’s more. America would not have its reputation as a nation of innovation and entrepreneurship without immigration. That’s not just my opinion. The U.S Chamber of Commerce and business leaders across the political spectrum would be the first to point out that first-generation Americans create 25 percent of all new businesses in the U.S., with the share rising to as much as 40 percent in some states. Almost half of the companies in the Fortune 500 and more than one-in-four small businesses in the U.S. were founded by immigrants. Many of these industry-shaping entrepreneurs immigrated to the U.S. as children or as students. So it is clearly an economic priority to make sure our current young immigrants and DREAMers can remain here as important contributors to our society. It also happens to be the right thing to do.
Aside from invigorating our economy, immigrants also strengthen our fiscal health. The CBO estimated that had Congress enacted the bipartisan legislation that the Senate passed in 2013, we could have boosted real GDP by more than five percent and reduced the deficit by nearly $900 billion by 2033. Today, immigrants and their descendants already contribute billions of dollars in much-needed revenue each year, putting far more into the system than they get back through social programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that refugees strengthened federal, state, and local budgets over the last decade, bringing in $63 billion more in revenue than public services used – a finding the Trump Administration tried to suppress.
Comprehensive immigration reform is not optional – it’s necessary and it is urgent. By failing to reflect our true national needs, current policies hurt our economy and prevent us from addressing some of our biggest fiscal challenges.
And let’s not lose sight of who wants us to enact reform legislation. Everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Labor Unions, Law Enforcement, the Faith Community, the Agriculture Community, and countless other organizations and interest groups agree that immigration reform is key to our nation’s future. Today, with compelling evidence on the economic benefits of reform, I hope we will be able to add more of our colleagues to the long list of supporters
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