Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Essential Economy

Please read this great op-ed on immigration reform by my friend Todd Stein:

Immigration Reform: AJC.Com

The Essential Economy
Sam Zamarripa and Todd Stein
Immigration reform is vital to America’s economy. That simple reality is driving four Republican senators, some of whom are the most conservative members of Congress, to champion the immigration reform bill now being debated on the floor of the US Senate.
Sen. Marco Rubio recently wrote that an immigration reform bill that includes bringing millions of undocumented aliens out of the underground economy “will improve the labor market, increase entrepreneurship and create jobs, leading to a net increase in economic growth.”
For Georgia, the economic stakes are high because of what immigration reform could do to sustain and boost Georgia’s “Essential Economy,” defined by a recent report by Georgia Tech’s Innovation Services Group as the goods and services that are essential to our way of life and that have to be produced right here in Georgia.
A significant percentage of the approximately 440,000 people in the state illegally makeup the workforce that drives Georgia’s essential economy.
That workforce includes the men and women on the frontlines of Georgia’s agriculture industry, harvesting crops, picking produce, and staffing the state’s many poultry plants. It also includes the hotel maids and restaurant workers, the backbone of the hospitality sector that makes Georgia an attractive place to visit or to start or relocate a business.
The essential economy workforce is made up of truck drivers, warehouse personnel and construction workers who have turned manufacturing, logistics, and trade into three of Georgia’s most promising prospects for long-term economic growth. And it includes landscapers as well as nursing home attendants and personal care assistants who are in increasing demand as the state’s population ages.
According to the Georgia Tech report, the essential economy contributed $49 billion in 2010 to Georgia’s gross domestic product and its workforce contributed more than $110 million in sales tax revenue through purchases of goods and services in 2011. Despite the national recession that began in 2008, the essential economy has remained a steady and often times growing part of the economies in Georgia’s 159 counties for the past nine years.
These numbers illustrate that the future of Georgia’s economy depends on sustaining and growing the essential economy, which in turn, creates the foundation for all the jobs in the aspirational economy – the high-skilled, high-wage jobs that Georgia continuously tries to create and attract.
The alternatives to immigration reform – maintaining the status quo or trying to deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally – are both impractical and potentially disastrous for the state’s economy.
The status quo does not work in part because Georgia’s population, like the rest of the country is aging. More than 60 percent of the state’s population will be more than 60 years old by 2030, according to the Department of Human Services.
As Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican pushing immigration reform, recently explained, “Unless there is another baby boom in America, the only way to bring new workers into the country is through legal immigration – hi-tech, low-tech, and everything in between. We will be cutting our throat economically if we don’t improve our immigration system to have more legal immigration.”
As for deportation, which Sen. Rubio explains is not a practical solution, many of Georgia’s business leaders can tell you that it is the worst thing we do could to the essential economy. Georgia learned that lesson with House Bill 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. After the state legislature passed that law, approximately 40 percent of the state’s agriculture labor needs went unmet as unpicked crops rotted in the field, costing Georgia businesses more than $140 million.
 Republicans championing immigration reform in the Senate have been instrumental in identifying bipartisan solutions to challenging issues like improving border security and addressing the inadequacies and dysfunction of our current immigration system. But they have also kept their focus on the issue Americans say they care the most about – improving the nation’s economy.
One of the best ways we can achieve a stronger economy in Georgia is to support bi-partisan immigration reform in Washington that gives business owners and their employees certainty about their futures, and ensures that our essential economy has what it needs most to thrive – a robust and vibrant workforce.

Sam Zamarripa, a former Georgia state senator, is founder and co-president of  The Essential Economy Council.  Todd Stein, who served as majority counsel on the  U.S . Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs, is a lawyer with Kitchens New Cleghorn LLC and a lecturer at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.


Federal agents seized the franchise rights of 14 Seven-Eleven stores and announced criminal charges against 9 people responsible for bringing undocumented immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines to work in these stores, paying them a fraction of required wages for working up to 100 hours per week or more and putting them in employer housing from which they could not escape.
The allegations state that these owners earned $180 Million in this scheme, with stores located in New York City, Virginia and other places. The feds say they used identities and social security numbers of legal U.S. residents for this, as a way to avoid detection for over 10 years.
If true, horrible and ugly indeed. It is sad to see how immigrants could be brutally exploited by unscrupulous people.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Courtesy of Greg Siskind: It was a good day for immigration reform. 15 Republicans joined a solid block of every Democrat to pass a cloture vote 67-27 for the Hoeven-Corker substitute immigration bill - a key test vote on immigration reform. Today's vote s a pretty good indicator of what will happen on Thursday on the final vote in the Senate on the immigration bill. Six Senators couldn't make the vote because of flight delays. Two were definite Democrat votes meaning that 70 votes is a real possibility.

I mentioned earlier that I was able to watch the proceedings from the Senate gallery. Though I've made dozens of trips to DC over the years to work on immigration issues, this was actually my first time in the gallery for one of the two chambers in the Capitol. The atmosphere was somewhat party-like as the Senators gathered for a vote that turned out to be more lopsided than many would have initially imagined.

It's a pretty sure bet that the final vote on a Senate bill will come on Thursday. But there could still be more amendment votes. Senator Corker told reporters this afternoon that a deal for 10 amendments to be offered by each side might be considered. No word yet on which amendments might make the cut. Things are moving on the House side as well. The House Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the E-Verify and high-skilled worker bills. Those bills and the other enforcement bills that have already passed. This week we could also see the much-awaited House bipartisan bill (written by the Gang of 7) finally be introduced. It's writers clam to be finished with negotiating the framework.Whether that bill will be considered is still not known. Speaker Boehner says he would like a bill passed on the floor by the end of July. That would then lead to the House and Senate setting up a conference committee to try and hammer out a compromise. So there are many steps remaining before the bill would make its way to the President's desk for his signature.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Pursuant to HB87, as of July 1, Georgia companies with 11 employees or more will be required to enroll in E-Verify, the federal online system to determine the immigration status of newly hired workers, in order to maintain their business license in the state.
Larger companies with over 100 employees were already required to participate as of last year, but as of next week all companies, other than the smallest with 10 employees or less, will have to participate in E-Verify.
This will not help to curb illegal immigration as proponents of HB87 would argue, but that now law in Georgia.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


The Congressional Budget Office or CBO, issued an analysis of the Senate bill S. 744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, saying that immigration reform as suggested in the bill would have a positive impact on the federal budget, and pay for itself .
The CBO estimates that the bill would increase the population of the U.S. by 10.4 million people and increase federal direct spending by $262 billion over the next decade, but revenue would jump by $459 billion because of additional collections of income taxes and payroll taxes due to an increase in the legal work force in the U.S. That means the bill would decrease federal budge deficits by $197 billion over this 10-year period. Beyond 2023, immigration reform would increase the number of people eligible for federal benefits such as Social Security and Medicare. But CBO expects the additional revenues generated by additional workers in the U.S. would outpace this extra spending. It projects that immigration reform would reduce federal deficits by $700 billion over the 2024-2033 period.
This is good news because it is clear that the arguments against the bill  are not economically viable.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that a poll by likely Georgia voters recently conducted shows that Georgia voters strongly support the immigration reform legislation now before the U.S. Senate.
61% of the voters said they “strongly support” or “somewhat support” the immigration bill currently proposed by the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate. A whopping 78% of the respondents said they would strongly or somewhat support an immigration reform plan requiring “undocumented immigrants” to the U.S. to pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes and wait at least 13 years before becoming eligible for citizenship.
This is overwhelming support of the bill by the majority of Georgia likely voters, and Georgia is traditionally a conservative state so conservative members of the Senate and House be on notice that your voters support this reform and do something good about it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


And the President is right. Not only that the moment is now, the need for immigration reform is something that our Congress stalled for over a decade. We hope something will get done soon.
Washington Business Journal's Kent Hoover wrote an interesting article about the President's remarks as well as various comments from Republican leaders such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who things the border security measures in the new bill are not strong enough. Is he kidding? They have a proposal to quadruple the budget at the border and use drones.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


The Hill reports that Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday predicted the Senate would pass its immigration reform bill by July 4 and said a strong vote for the measure could force House Republicans to embrace the Gang of Eight’s bill, despite Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) vow to the contrary. They hope to win 70 votes in the Senate, including nearly a majority of Republicans.
This would be great news indeed if it passes the Senate with a large Republican majority.
The Republican party needs to pass this because now even the Tea party ultra conservatives Koch brothers support the measure. If they do not pass it they will alienate Hispanic voters for a very long time and the few hard hat voters who actually oppose the bill will not exactly vote Democrat next time around...
The full Senate is expected to begin debating the bill on June 10. The House is going to be very problematic, especially because of its Speaker Boehner but we'll see.
It's going to be interesting.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I just read this great Washington Post editorial that argues that restricting the labor market by keeping out immigrant workers is inconsistent with free market principles and is bad for the economy.
Stephen Moore talks about surveying the top 75 economists on their views on immigration and 9 to 1 are in favor of immigration as good for the economy, with even Milton Friedman, a very conservative economist saying that both legal and illegal immigration has a very positive impact on the U.S. economy.
I liked this part the most: "It is ironic that the right-wingers who argue against protectionism, against the minimum wage, against unions (which inflate wage rates) and against Obamacare want to keep domestic wages artificially high by restricting the labor market (e.g. keeping out immigrant workers). That effort is not only inconsistent with free market principles, but, according to stacks of research, it also is empirically dubious."
Yes, the anti-immigration reform politicians rely on dubious data and "research" to support their position where the evidence points in the other direction.