Senate Judiciary on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation

On 4/17/13 at 2:30 pm (ET) the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled: "Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation."

Witness List
Panel I

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary, United States Department of Homeland Security

Panel II

Peter Kirsanow
Partner, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Arnoff
Commissioner, United States Commission on Civil Rights
Cleveland, Ohio

Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin
President, American Action Forum
Washington, DC

10:12am Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) opens the hearing
The Senator explains that DHS Secretary Napolitano will not be appearing at the hearing and then goes over the major aspects of the bill including family unity provisions, agricultural worker compromise, the guest worker program, clearing the employment backlogs and enforcement and security measures. Sen. Leahy expresses concerns about the border security triggers, the lack of inclusion of LGBT families, changing the visa system for families, and spending billions of dollars on a fence between the U.S. and Mexico. The Senator acknowledge, however, that the bill is a result of compromise and should be commended.

10:19am Senator Grassley (R-IA) opening statement
We appreciate the opportunity to talk about immigration especially in the light of what is happening in Boston and Watertown. Exactly 30 years ago today this hearing held a hearing to discuss the Immigration Responsibility Control Act. The details of the attacks in Boston will help inform us on the immigration debate.

10:26am First witness, Peter Kirsanow, begins his statement that illegal immigration (and granting legal status) hurts American workers, specifically black male American workers.

10:32am Second witness, Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin begins his statement that immigration reform represents an economic opportunity.

10:37 Sen. Leahy begins his questions
Q: You have places where there are large number of undocumented workers, you have companies that show up and say we're going ot pay you a flat rate for the day, you can't complain about it.
Holtz-Eakin A: The impact of immigration on low skilled wages: illegal immigrants in the U.S.--the bill will put those workers on a level playing field with U.S. workers and will cut off future illegal immigration into the U.S. For immigration in general, there is good evidence that it raises the wages of U.S. workers. If we are worried about low skilled U.S. workers, we should worry about increasing their skills, not immigration. Competition from immigrant low skilled workers doesn't start when they enter the U.S., this is a global competition.

Q: You say that immigration reform could reduce the deficit over $2.5 trillion and increase the GDP by 1% every year.
Holtz-Eakin A: Economic growth comes from people and their participation in the labor force. Immigrants are more likely to be engaged in the labor force and be entrepreneurs.

10:43am Senator Grassley begins questions
Q: We must enhance and expand the legal avenues for those who wish to work here. Do either of you have an estimate on hw the legal immigration levels will increase if we pass this bill?
Holtz-Eakin A: I don't have a precise number, but it looks somewhere around 250,000.
Q: Can we implement E-Verify sooner than 5 years?

10:49am Senator Feinstein (D-CA) statement
Agriculture is a huge industry and is mainly served by undocumented immigrants who become very skilled in the work they do. They have not been able to attract an American workforce. Employers wants wage specificity and the farmworkers wanted decent wages and worker protections. The program, the Blue Card program, will lead to a Green Card and creates two additional visa program.

10:53am Senator Hatch (R-UT) begins statement
I want to support this bill and am very interested in high skilled immigration, including introducing the I squared Act. I looked at the high skilled visa provisions in the bill, here are the areas that need to change: the bill requires the government to micromanage compliant American companies, the increase in H-1B cap will not respond to real time needs. I am very pleased with the agricultural portion of the bill.
Q: What are near term and long term effects on the Social Security program if there was an increase in the legal immigration system?
Holtz-Eakin A: It does not look to me that the bill would have significant impacts before five years, probably ten, and I hope that at that point we will not have such high levels of unemployment. We will see immigrants will pay taxes up front.

11:00am Senator Schumer (D-NY)

I ask that everyone try not to jump to conclusion on the events in Boston. Both the refugee and asylum program have been strengthened in the past five years and I am open to any changes that need to be made.

Q: If we assume that we can't deport the 11 million people, isn't it better to have people work here legally, rather than work here legally?

11:04am Senator Sessions (R-AL) begins questions
Q: I have no confidence that this administration will ever enforce any of our immigration laws. The nation would be better served by high skilled workers than low skilled workers in terms of GDP growth. Holtz-Eakin A: I agree that moving to an immigration system that favors high skilled will increase GDP.
Senator Sessions complains that bill was written by big business and big agriculture interests rather that in the people's interests.

11:10am Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) begins questions
Q: Quotes Alan Greenspan that there is little doubt that illegal immigrants have made an important contribution to our economy. Some evidence suggests that unskilled illegal immigrants suppress wage levels, but the wage suppression is relatively small and economists generally view the benefits of this workforce significantly outweigh the costs.

Holtz-Eakin A: We are competing on a global market, I would hope that our aspirations would be greater than protecting low skilled American workers from the global market but instead focusing on increasing their skills.

11:15am Senator Graham (D-SC) begins questions
Q: If nothing changes, by 2043 Medicaid and Medicare will take 18% of GDP to fund. In 1960 there were 16 workers for every Social Security retiree, if we don't change something there will be less than 2 workers in 2043. Two people can't do what 16 people use to do. We might also need entitlement reform, but we definitely need immigration reform. I don't want a foreign worker coming in to displace an American worker willing to do the job--so in this bill we require companies to advertise every job at a competitive wage. Why are so many agricultural workers Hispanic?

A: Because illegal immigrants will take low wage jobs.

Q: Do you agree that there are types of jobs that American workers just won't do? I can tell you that there are. I want to test this proposition by forcing these companies to advertise all jobs at higher wages.

11:22am Senator Klobuchar
My focus is on the economic consequences of immigration reform. When you bring over someone who has special skills they create American jobs. What do you see as the 2 or 3 biggest benefits of immigration reform?
Holtz-Eakin A: The bill makes the fundamental decision to move away from a system that is driven by family reunification, refugee, asylum system towards a metric based system that prioritizes economics. Making STEM provisions more responsive to economic conditions.
Q: We are in a global economy, what countries do you see as doing a good job?
Holtz-Eakin A: Under 10% of the core visas granted are for economic reasons.
Q: This is happening simultaneously as we train and prepare our workers and students in the same fields. Providing work authorization to the spouses of workers, i see this as a women's issue. Why will this help the U.S.
Holtz-Eakin A: The entry of women into the workforce has been one of the most important factors in the growth of the U.S. economy.
Q: I head the tourist caucus and we included the JOLT act to modernize and expand the visa waiver program, and shorten wait times as well. Since 9/11 we have lost 16% of travel and tourism and each point costs America 160,000 American jobs.

11:28am Senator Lee (R-UT) statement
The process of reform will have to be considered and implemented in stages over the next few years. I've introduced several pieces of reform legislation, including the JOLT act, but I have concerns about doing this all in one fell swoop and of addressing the 11 million before satisfying other main concerns. This bill is incredibly long and there hasn't been enough opportunity for Senators and staff to comprehend this legislation and would be impossible to really debate the bill. I favor sensible, incremental approach.

11:33am Senator Franken
Thanks the Senators on the committee for their work on the bill. We need a comprehensive approach because everything is complex and interrelated. I think that our broken system is a drag on our economy. I think this will help Minnesota families and business alike. I'm most pleased about is what the bill does for Minnesota's dairy industry. For years dairy farmers haven't been able to access the workers they need because seasonal workers just won't work. I've been calling on this to be fixed for years. Seems to me that having access to a stable and legal workforce has to be a boon to our dairy industry.
Holtz-Eakin A: Themarket determines skills, we've learned that skill tradesmen are in short supply, it's a highly skilled valuable profession. The more we have an immigration reform that can respond to the market the better we will be.
Q: I want to ask about the economic impact of treating same-sex couples differently under immigration law, Carlson and Megatronic have said that the current law hurts their ability to recruit top talent. They are supporting UAFA. I was told about a Minnesota small business that will have to shut down because the owner is in a same-sex relationship and won't be able to stay in the country. Don't we miss the opportunity to strengthen the economy by not allowing same-sex couples to reunite in this country?

11:39am Senator Flake (R-AZ) begins questions
In 2006 the Heritage Foundation released a study that reform would cost the taxpayers $2.6 trillion, what are your feelings on a study like that?
Holtz-Eakin A: I have reservations about the design of that study because it leaves out the dynamic effects and it doesn't shed any light on reform.

11:46pm Senator Hirono begins statement
There are economic considerations that are attended to throughout this bill. I'd like to spend some time focusing on family, family unity is very much a part of economic success - these are not either or propositions. Those two should go together in my view. This bill will help some families unite, but it will dramatically impact others, especially from Asian countries, from being able to reunify with their families. The bill eliminates the sibling category and restricts the married sons/daughters category. I think the merit based system will exclude many siblings from reunifying, this is troubling because siblings are an integral part of the family unit. I recently met a woman named Nadine whose brother is her only remaining family member, I am concerned that cases like Nadine will no longer be able to reunite with their family members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 13041043.