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Immigration Reform Economy Benefits: Comprehensive Reform Is 'Economic Imperative' for US, Says Labor Secretary Thomas Perez

First Posted: Oct 21, 2014 05:02 PM EDT

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez identified immigration as one step to "shared prosperity" for the U.S. economy.

During a speech at the National Press Club, Perez said immigration reform would increase economic benefits, including trillions of dollars in economic activity for the U.S.

"It's not just a moral, humanitarian and national security imperative; it's an economic imperative," said Perez regarding why the immigration system needs to be fixed. "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform would increase real GDP relative to current projections by 5.4 percent over the next two decades. That translates into an additional $1.4 trillion in economic activity -- adding jobs, putting upward pressure on wages and helping stabilize the Social Security Trust Fund."

"Congress shouldn't stop there," added Perez. He said comprehensive immigration reform is "big and bold" and is one of many policy initiatives that are "long overdue."

With immigration reform, Perez also noted an increase of the minimum wage and infrastructure improvements can also build the economy. Perez acknowledged that the three aforementioned ideas have worked in the past and should be supported in the future.

Regarding the minimum wage, Perez said a wage increase is not a "radical idea" despite comments from "certain folks" in Washington, D.C. The Labor secretary recalled the minimum wage increase passed during the Republican-controlled Congress led by Newt Gingrich and has been signed into law by every president, except two, since Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.

"The purchasing power of the minimum wage is 20 percent less today than it was 30 years ago, and the United States has the third lowest minimum wage - as a percentage of median wage -- among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries," said Perez, who highlighted the conservative British government recently increasing its minimum wage to $11.05 per hour.

Infrastructure improvements, which range from rebuilding bridges, ports, roads and transit systems, can grow the economy and added jobs.

"Yes, it involves some federal spending, but no, it's not an exotic left-wing idea ... As someone who worked on transportation issues as a local elected official, I know firsthand that we can't build a 21st century transportation infrastructure with the current approach -- lurching from one short-term bill to the next and making long-term planning nearly impossible," said Perez.

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