New Perspectives Revealed in Immigration Senate Hearings on S.744

It’s been one week since the Senate’s immigration bill (now known as S.744) was officially released and the news circuit is still aflutter tripping over itself to provide coverage on the voluminous bill.  In the past three (business) days, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held three separate hearings to solicit testimony from a bevy of witnesses.

The Economics of Immigration Reform

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum cautioned Congress to look at the fiscal impact of S.744 of not only the costs but also the revenues.  Mr. Holtz-EAkin states that S.744 “contemplates no new ACA spending for the currently undocumented population within the 10-year window.”  (See S.744 §2101)  Mr. Holtz-Eakin estimates that gross domestic product would rise from 3% to 3.9% on average, annually, in the next 10 years after enactment.  In light of the decline in childbirth amongst native-born U.S. women, the absence of a robust migrant population in the U.S. would negatively impact our country’s economy, causing a contraction. The issue of our shrinking birth rates and native population growth has actually been raised by many experts and Congressional members.  Senator Graham pointedly asked where our workforce would come from in the next 30 years.  He stressed in his statements before the Committee (along with a chart) that the high rate of retirement from Baby-Boomers coupled with a shrinking native population necessitated a migrant workforce.

Family Re-Unification

Mr. Holtz-Eakin indicated the peculiarity of U.S. migration policy to stress re-unification of families in spite of the “profound economic implications” of our migration policies.  He cited 74% of our immigrants in 2010 were from family categories rather than other (e.g.: employment) categories, which was much higher than other countries.  (See the chart below.)

Nevertheless, witnesses and Senators were clearly dismayed by the elimination of the sibling family category in S.744 as well as the total exclusion of same-sex couples, as expressed by Immigrant Rights Leader Gaby Pachecho.  In his opening remarks in Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Leahy lamented the exclusion of gay sand lesbians from S.744, as did his long-time friend and Monday’s witness The Honorable Jim Kolbe, who still awaits reunification in the U.S. with his long-time same-sex partner. It appeared that despite the lament, perhaps this was the compromise struck by the Gang of Eight?  Perhaps these groups of future immigrants had to be sacrificed for the greater good?  But are avenues still available for those who wish to emigrate?

Legalization Would Aid Law Enforcement

Despite the objections of some critics, Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mark Shurtleff, Partner at Troutman Sanders LLP and Former Utah Attorney General, agreed that the legalization of 11 million undocumented individuals would significantly benefit local law enforcement efforts to fight crime.  The immediate impact would allow local communities to report crime at a higher rate.

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Stay tuned in as I’ll follow up with a report on some of the criticisms and concerns voiced by witnesses in the recent Senate hearings.  What sections of S.744 do you want me to write about in greater detail?  Please send me your comments below.