At a pre-Independence Day naturalization ceremony at the Treasury Department Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew used about one-third of his address to a roomful of newly sworn-in citizens to criticize the America’s immigration system and plug the current immigration legislation. According to prepared remarks, he told these newest Americans that "too many immigrants do not get a fair shot at the American dream. Too often, they are forced to live and work in the shadows." After singling out the stories of some of the new citizens and what America held for them, Lew continued [emphasis added]:
...You see, immigration is not just something that is consistent with our values. It is also consistent with growing our economy, increasing jobs, and expanding our middle class. Yet the troubling truth remains that too many immigrants do not get a fair shot at the American dream. Too often, they are forced to live and work in the shadows. This not only hurts them, it hurts America as well.
For instance, our immigration system right now opens our top universities to the brightest minds from all around the globe. But this same system tells these men and women to get out of our country once they are done studying and have received all their training. That is basically pushing new innovation, new jobs, and new businesses beyond our borders.
That encourages industries of the future to grow outside the United States. The truth is, this is not good economic policy. But that is the way our immigration system works today. And it is like a headwind in our economic sails.
Now, there is a bipartisan immigration bill before Congress that would fix our broken immigration system. This comprehensive legislation does a number of things. It strengthens our borders. It provides a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million people who are here illegally. And it will boost economic growth.
This bill will drive growth by bringing highly skilled scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to the United States. At the same time, this bill will create a new wave of consumers who will fuel demand and generate economic activity. The effect will be enormous. More new businesses. More new jobs, and more exports.
We will also see our deficits shrink, and with added workers on our payrolls, Social Security and Medicare will be put on a more stable footing. In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this legislation will lower our deficits by nearly a trillion dollars over the next two decades. So it is important for our economy, and for who we are as a people that we reform our immigration system...
Lew closed the ceremony by leading the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.