Senator Menendez: We Must Underscore the Economic Impact of Immigration Reform

Senator Menendez: We Must Underscore the Economic Impact of Immigration Reform

Washington, DC - In remarks at the "All In Nation" forum hosted by the Center for American Progress," U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today spoke about the positive economic impacts of passing comprehensive immigration reform and called on supporters to underscore these impacts with House Republicans during the August recess.

Below are his full remarks as delivered; immigration reform sections in bold:

"I look at All In Nation is only the latest step, but one that takes a realistic look at who we are, what America will look like, and what we can do to maximize the economic opportunity that will come with the seismic demographic shift we are seeing. It reiterates the importance of making sure our public policies work for all Americans and, specifically, for Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans, and other under-represented groups- for these are the policies that will help America as a whole.

"All in Nation lays out the facts. It tells us, and I quote, that, "in parts of the country, our multicultural future is already here." That "people of color already constitute the majority in 49 of the nation's 366 metropolitan regions..." That, "by 2050, non-Hispanic whites will make up 47 percent of the population, with communities of color combining to form a solid 53 percent majority."

"It leads us to the inevitable conclusion that diversity is not something to tolerate, but rather something we must embrace for the good of all of us and for the good of our competitiveness in the global marketplace, and that doing right by communities of color is doing right for the country.

"The economic statistics and benefits related to diversity are astounding. The research behind All In Nation shows that diversity actually drives innovation, it creates new markets, it provides a significantly expanded consumer base for existing businesses and start-ups. The Latino market in the U.S. alone represents $1.2 trillion. In fact, if it were its own country, it would be the 15th largest economy in the world.

"Between 2002 and 2007 the number of businesses owned by African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians grew more than 3 times as fast as white-owned businesses, and revenues grew more than twice as fast.

"But diversity also makes for better performing corporations. We know that teams of diverse individuals solve problems better. They're better at developing new ideas, and better at coming up with innovative solutions.

"There is a case to be made for diversity as a fundamental element of a good business model: A study commissioned by CalPERS found that companies with diverse board exceeded Dow Jones and NASDAQ average returns over five years, and companies that did not have diverse boards were at a competitive disadvantage.

"Advocacy groups like Catalyst have found that Fortune 500 companies with higher percentages of women board directors significantly financially outperform companies with fewer women directors. Calvert issued a study that found that those companies that demonstrate a robust commitment to diversity, in addition to competitive financial performance, are better positioned to generate long-term value for their shareholders.

"As All In Nation points-out, "The private sector is recognizing the bottom line benefits of diversity," and quotes the CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi saying: 'The diversity of people in a corporation promotes innovation because it achieves greater diversity of ideas. There's a link between diversity and innovation that's not theoretical... it's real."

"At the same time that diversity spurs innovation and will create good, 21st century jobs, we have to realize that our changing population will need the skills to meet the requirements of those jobs and that as our population changes our educational system must keep up with those changes.

"In 2010, 54 percent of K-12 students were white, that's down from 67 percent in 1990. By 2025, one-quarter - 25 percent - of all of the nation's students will be Latino and the future competitiveness of the United States will depend on how well we educate them. In that same timeframe, the number of Hispanic students has more than doubled.

"As All In Nation says there are more students of color in our classrooms, and yet graduation and attainment rates are lingering behind. If that continues there will be a serious skills-gap... considering that the fastest growing ethnic group - Latinos - currently has attainment rates decades behind what they'll need to meet 21st century job requirements.

"By 2020, 66 percent of jobs will require at least some post-secondary education. So, the gap becomes clear when we realize that African-Americans and Hispanics make-up 27 percent of the workforce today and by 2050 that will rise to 42 percent of the workforce but, in 2010, only 15 percent of Latinos had a bachelor's degree compared to 27 percent of African-Americans and 37 percent of non-Hispanic white Americans.

"All In Nation lays out a plan to retool and rebuild to meet these challenges and gives us a framework for the development of partnerships based on equality, human capacity; on giving every American a chance at a decent job, a good education, unlocking the potential of every child, rebuilding our infrastructure, improving health care, building a 21st century workforce, building income and assets, fixing our criminal justice system and strengthening civic participation are critical elements of what our future will look like if we want to continue to be a global superpower.

"The experts have spoken in All In Nation, and now we have a chance to get to work, realize the economic benefits and opportunities that come with diversity and we can start with making sure we pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"As the Center for American Progress has brought together the experts and taken a step toward eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in this country, the Senate has worked across the aisle and taken a step forward - in a spirit of bipartisanship - to make the all-in-nation a reality when it comes to making sure there are no second class citizens, no one living in the shadows, no one who doesn't have a chance to contribute to growing our economy.

"As a member of the Gang of 8, I can tell you the process that we went through was long and sometimes difficult, and it was not necessarily the bill I would have written, but it ended with a bipartisan compromise that will finally fix our broken immigration system, and bring 11 million immigrants out of the shadows. Not just the millions who have been here for years without status, but the millions more who have been waiting in line to be reunified with their families lawfully.

"For me, casting that vote was a proud moment. It was a vote for my mother who worked hard to give me the chance to succeed in America who came as an immigrant. It was a vote for immigrants like her who came to this country in the last century to give their families a chance to contribute to America's exceptionalism and for all those who will now have a chance to contribute to America's exceptionalism in this century. And it was a vote for the many young, skilled, educated, DREAMERS, and entrepreneurs who will now have a chance to become citizens and help lead this nation. And that is the crux of the economic argument we progressives need to make to our Republican friends.

"That as All In Nation argues, "In order to increase economic security our national economic policies must focus on creating good family-supporting jobs; building a strong workforce and a growing base of entrepreneurs; and strengthening the nation's capacity to innovate and produce." The fact is fixing the broken immigration system would do all of that.

"As CAP research shows, immigration reform would increase America's GDP by over $800 billion over ten years. And it will increase wages of all Americans by $470 billion over ten years and increase jobs by 121,000 per year. Immigrants will start small businesses. They'll create jobs for American workers. It's time to harness that economic power.

"The CBO, a nonpartisan entity of congress, reported that immigration reform could reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and by another $700 billion more between 2024 and 2033 through changes in direct spending and revenues. We're talking about almost a trillion dollars in deficit reduction that we can lift from the backs of the next generation. What other single piece of legislation that the congress has offered increases GDP growth, increases wages, increases jobs and lowers the deficit at the same time? (I will mention that there are few, if any.)

"What we realize now, what's been confirmed by the numbers, is that giving 11 million people a clear and defined pathway to citizenship is, in effect, an economic growth strategy and exactly the right thing to do. That is the argument, the economic argument, we must make to those in the House and those who need to be convinced of the benefits of the all-in-nation. That is the argument we need to make to Speaker Boehner, to take the next step, but I'm afraid he may need a push in the right direction from all of us.

"As I've said many times before and will say again today: I have been around this town for a while and I know that August is a month in which legislative proposals live or die. So now is the time.

"Those of us who deeply believe in the need for immigration reform cannot let up, we cannot be complacent, we can't go on vacation in August. We must let our voices be heard now - and throughout the month of August.

"In August, we need to gather every group and every interested party, women, Chamber leaders, business leaders, community-based and faith-based organizations, and so many others, who can influence Republican members of the House in their own districts.

"The economic message of All In Nation is a message we need to send in August. It's a message our friends in the business community can help us send to leaders in Washington. It's a basic economic message that, I know, will resonate with every member of the House and will make every Republican take notice, even in the safest districts, because - as All In Nation says - even in the safest districts, eliminating ethnic disparities based on 2011 numbers - would increase average incomes by over 8 percent, increase GDP by $1.2 trillion, and lift 13 million people out of poverty.

"We need to make the All-In-Nation-case that we have to invest in communities of color, we have to close the racial divide, we have to take action and keep the pressure on all of our policy makers to bring this nation together because - at the end of the day - it's the right thing to do. It makes good economic sense, and it will secure our future.

"But, even if someone disagrees with my views - with our views as progressives - about what the right reasons are, from the debates I've heard in Washington, I don't think they would disagree with the idea of deficit reduction. I don't think they would disagree with the economic benefits of immigration reform; or with the benefit to entrepreneurial American businesses and high-tech start-ups; or the fundamental economic benefit that would come to everyone in this country if we create and build on the concepts of the All-In-Nation.

"As a former member of the House, I know the last thing a member of the House of Representatives wants to hear is a lecture from the Senate, but I do believe that the bipartisan effort we undertook could serve as a model for a similar process in the House.

"August is the time for action. I've always said: "when you feel the heat at home, you see the light in Washington."

"We need to apply some good, fundamental heat and tell our Republican friends that - for those of us here today - this debate is about fairness and equality, but for those who think more in terms of economic benefit, we simply need to make the case that it's as much about the nation's economic security and competitiveness as it is about doing what we know - in our hearts - is right.

"This year is the 50th anniversary - on August 28th - of Dr. King's March on Washington. His vision of a more equitable nation is the fundamental message of All In Nation.

"We can begin building a better future if we make sure, in August, that we lay the groundwork for the House to pass comprehensive immigration reform so we can send a bill to the President's desk by Christmas.

"I will do all I can, and I hope everyone here will join me in doing what we know is right for the future of this nation. Thank you very much for having me with you today."


Press Contact