Bernanke Recommends Congress Take Up Immigration

In his testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee late last week, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke listed immigration reform as one of the issues Congress can and should take up to advance the nation’s economy:

There are a lot of things Congress can do…there’s tax policy, there’s immigration policy, trade policy. […]

I think frankly, this is a topic that I can never get much traction on — I think our immigration policy which restricts severely the number of highly-trained skilled immigrants is a problem because bringing those kind of folks in helps our high-tech industries develop more competitively — become more competitive.

Watch it:

Last year Bernanke told a Congressional panel that “by opening doors to more people with top technical skills…you’d keep companies here, and you’d have more innovation here, and you’d have more growth here.” Bernanke has also indicated that in order to overcome the effects of an aging population, immigration would have to rise to 3.5 million people annually.

Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan, agrees. Back in December, Greenspan testified that immigrants of all skill-levels are “affecting the economy in a positive way.” Greenspan also affirmed that “we would have a very serious problem” if the U.S. tried to embark on a massive deportation program that would involve sending the nation’s undocumented immigrants back home.

andreaWhile neither Greenspan or Bernanke will likely win Wonk Room Economics blogger Pat Garofalo’s “Person of the Year Award,” their remarks are indicative of growing consensus amongst several leading economists when it comes to immigration and the economy. Tom Freidman has written, “When the best brains in the world are on sale, you don’t shut them out. You open your doors wider.

We need to attack this financial crisis with green cards not just greenbacks.” A recent report by Raul Hinojosa of the University of California, Los Angeles further found that immigration reform which includes a path legalization could generate at least $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. The Center for American Progress has estimated that mass deportations could cost the U.S. up to $230 billion or more.

Andrea Christina Nill

Republished with permission from the Wonk Room/Think Progress


  1. MdeG says

    YES! Bernanke is absolutely right, but not only for the reasons that he mentions. Legalizing, or at least enforcing fair wages & working conditions, for lower-skilled undocumented workers would also be a big help. It would prevent unscrupulous bosses from taking unfair advantage of these folks, hiring them preferentially, and using their presence to undercut wages and conditions for the rest of the workforce.

    • MyLeftMind says

      Corporations and their rich investors have been frustrated for years with those pesky U.S. rules like minimum pay, child labor laws and employer taxes that support programs like Unemployment, Social Security and Workers Compensation. Outsourcing has solved some of those problems, but not everything can be made by child laborers in foreign countries. Hence, we have a huge problem with companies taking advantage of undocumented employees, while the public pays for the extra costs for utilizing that workforce, including health care costs, social services drain, redirection of educational resources to accommodate non-English speakers and increased crime in border states. The question isn’t whether or not we should be supporting people who came here just looking for a better life, but how to deal with the problems associated with the undermining of employee protections we’ve created in this country.

      Ben Bernanke and his ilk are pushing for new immigrants at both ends of the pay scale because they know overpopulation and a flooded employee pool works to their advantage. Reforming immigration policy is a euphemism for allowing more workers to enter the country, which depresses America’s skilled and unskilled wages. Bernanke knows very well that we have a huge surplus of skilled labor in this country. High-tech industries have been laying off employees like crazy, and millions of college graduates aren’t going to find employment in their fields. They want to replace our well educated technical employees with minimum pay immigrants from India and China, and the huge difference in wages would be pocketed by companies and investors.

      On the lower end of the pay scale, employers have been cheating for years using undocumented laborers. Now with the threat of legal action against them, they’re looking for ways to get the same dishonest deals (the cheapest labor possible) without the risk of breaking the law. The solution to companies taking advantage of illegal immigrants is to put those employers in jail, fine them and appropriate their assets, just as we do with drug dealers and tax cheats. Millionaire developers who hire undocumented Hispanics for $6/ hour have severely undermined our trained U.S. construction workforce. Skilled carpenters that should make $30/hr have to compete with people who will work under the table. Employers get to pay less, plus they cheat by not paying employee taxes like Workers Comp and FICA. Big time developers and other employers aren’t going to risk jail time and loss of their multi-million dollar development projects. Agribusiness owners that take advantage of migrant workers will stop breaking the law if they risk losing their mega farms. The solution is to go after the employers, not give citizenship to the undocumented workers.

      As for Bernanke telling Congress what to do to help our country, it’s rich men like him that have wrecked the economy with their greed. Maybe it’s time enact laws to prevent men like him from buying off our politicians. That would be the best thing we could do for both the economy and for our struggling democracy.

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