Commerce Secretary backs immigration reform

On Jan. 9, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker once again spoke of the need for immigration reform in the United States. While attending an event for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Pritzker told attendees and reporters that immigration reform was both a moral and economic issue, and passing common sense legislation could be a boon for the American economy.

Immigration reform’s impact on the economy
One issue that Pritzker focused on was the potentially enormous positive impact immigration reform could have on the economy. Referencing the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate in June, Pritzker said she thought similar legislation could provide a $1.4 trillion boost to the American economy over the next 20 years.

In California alone, Pritzker says immigration reform could boost the economy by $7 billion “in the near-term,” while creating 77,000 new jobs.

Foreign graduate students key to economy
One group Pritzker talked about extensively was foreign-born graduate students who are studying in American universities. She believes they can be key to American economic expansion, but under current U.S. laws many of them are forced to leave the country once they complete their degrees.

One aspect of the Senate reform bill included a way to encourage those students to stay in the U.S. after they finish school, and Pritzker believes that provision is a necessary component of any eventual legislation.

“It allows us to staple a green card to the degrees of graduate students, instead of forcing potential innovators and job creators to leave after being trained at our universities – a mind-boggling concept to me,” Pritzker said during her speech at the Jan. 9 event.

Making an argument for immigration reform that is based on economics is one of many tactics that have been used by people on both the left and right side of the political spectrum. That could help make any potential reforms more palatable to both the general public and hardcore conservatives who have thus far been unwilling to budge on their opposition to reform.