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Paul Ryan: Immigrants ‘Bring Labor to Our Economy So Jobs Can Get Done’

Nancy Cook, The National Journal

July 25, 2013

In the past month, Rep. Paul Ryan, normally so focused on fiscal matters, has shifted his attention to immigration. He isn’t pitching reform as a humanitarian or budget-cutting move, though other advocates say it would be both. Instead, the House Budget Committee chairman makes an economic argument. If Republicans want to grow the economy, what better way, he asks, than to bring 11 million new workers into the country under a more structured system to perform high-skilled jobs, plug labor shortages, and stay off welfare rolls? Edited excerpts of his interview with National Journal follow.

NJ What’s your economic case for immigration reform?

RYAN Immigrants bring talent and hard work. They started a quarter of new businesses in 2011 alone. Immigrant-owned small businesses employ about 4.7 million people. We are educating people here and not letting them stay when they could actually contribute and create businesses; instead, they go overseas and end up competing against us. We’re going to have labor shortages when the baby boomers are fully retired.

NJ But what’s the case for low-skilled workers?

RYAN [They] bring labor to our economy so jobs can get done. The dairy farmers in western Wisconsin are having a hard time finding anyone to help them produce their products, which are mostly cheese. If they can’t find workers, then they can’t produce, and we’ll end up importing. The flip side of the argument is: Just raise wages enough to attract people. But you raise wages too much in certain industries, then you’ll get rid of those industries, and we’ll just have to import.

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