Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) Opening Remarks at Hearing on the Economic and Budgetary Effects of Immigration

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery:


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

My colleagues across the aisle have called this hearing today to talk about the budgetary and economic impacts of immigration. I welcome the opportunity to explore bipartisan solutions that will improve our immigration policies and further strengthen our economy.

Unfortunately, we must first address the crisis at our southern border — a crisis that both sides acknowledge must be managed.

For those who have questioned the seriousness of the situation, I want to quickly recap what’s been happening.

Over 100,000 migrants are trying to illegally enter the country each month, placing enormous pressure on Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and the communities along the border.

Last month, 144,000 migrants were apprehended by CBP agents, a 32 percent increase from the previous month. To put these numbers in perspective, the number of apprehensions in April 2019 is 591 percent greater than in April 2017. Five hundred and ninety-one percent.

At this rate, a total of over one million migrants are projected to have illegally crossed the border this fiscal year.

The systems and infrastructure we have in place are not sufficient to handle this level of migration. And as Mayor Douglass Nicholls of Yuma, Arizona, will tell us today, it’s our local communities that are having to pay the price.

Our Majority has had several opportunities to advance bipartisan solutions that would provide relief to these communities and begin to address the crisis at the border. For nearly two months, they’ve refused to act.

I fear that last night’s vote was an unfortunate loss of precious time. This is a situation where Congress clearly needs to come together and act swiftly. I’m sorry to say we are falling short in the basic obligations of our jobs here.

Another costly partisan proposal they have championed is H.R. 6, a bill that failed to address the immediate challenges facing communities like Yuma, and is expected to cost at least $30 billion in new, mandatory spending over the next ten years, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Another $30 billion of federal, mandatory spending — that is, spending that is set on autopilot.

How do Democrats plan to pay for this costly proposal? They don’t.

They did not include a single offset in H.R. 6 and they waived their own “Pay-As-You-Go” rule to pass it.

Further, I expect to hear today the false claim that immigration reform can improve the financial stability of the Social Security Trust Fund, which is projected to become insolvent by 2032.

The problem with this notion is that they’re only looking at half of the equation: those who would pay into the system.

When you consider the other half of the equation, those who would receive benefits, the math does not add up.

In fact, as the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary testified in 2015, granting amnesty to five million illegal immigrants would only extend the solvency of the program by three months. That’s it… hardly the Social Security savior some of our friends across the aisle like to claim.

The truth is, I believe immigration reform — done right — can have a positive effect on our economy and on the federal budget. Immigration, after all, is what our great nation was built on.

I am particularly interested in how we can improve our visa program to meet the demands of our growing labor market and create even more opportunity for hardworking families. I know this is a priority for job creators in my district and across the country.

The same goes for the USMCA — a modernized trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that cities on the border and across the country are counting on. As Mayor Nicholls explained in his written testimony, USMCA is critical for Yuma’s economy and creating jobs for current and future visa holders.

In April, I spent an entire week back home talking with local workers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders about the need to finalize this important pact, which will support more than 100,000 jobs in my state.

If this Committee truly wants to build a more dynamic economy, we should focus on the benefits of the USMCA, which will strengthen trade with two of our largest trading partners and make American businesses more competitive around the world.

It’s clear we have a lot of opportunity to strengthen our economy and the federal budget. But before we can deliver meaningful reforms, we must ensure our communities are safe and our borders are secure. I look forward to discussing how we do just that today.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I welcome our witnesses, and I yield back.