Commerce Secretary: Immigration reform would bring in $1.4 trillion

It's been around seven months since Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, worth nearly $2 billion from her career in business, started her term in the Cabinet. She's brought that private-sector experience to government, where she's stressing the importance of increasing exports and launching a "Look South" initiative.

On if current economic growth is enough

"I think we're on the right path but we have more work to do. We still have 7% unemployment and that is not an acceptable number. And that's why we're working so hard on all fronts: domestically, whether it's growing our own markets, making sure we improve exports, or inviting foreign companies to come invest in the United States to grow job opportunities, good job opportunities in this country. I think that as we address unemployment, consumer confidence grow. That will reflect in retail numbers, that will reflect then in manufacturing numbers. So it's all interrelated."

On the biggest complaints business leaders have 

"The top issues that I hear are about trade, give us more free-trade agreeements, help us trade, help us export. Because they realize how integrated the global supply chain is. Number two is immigration reform. The business community is really in favor of immigration reform. They feel it’s good for American business. … I think that the situation right now is sitting in the House. The Speaker needs to bring immigration reform to the floor and let the democratic process occur … I’m an optimist and I believe we can get this done in the first half of this year. $1.4 trillion of economic benefit will come to the United States over the next 20 years if we pass immigration reform.”

On if the business industry needs help from government

"There are many ways the American business and the government work together. And it's necessary that we in the government recognize, we have to move though at the pace of business. We have to be responsive, we have to provide the conditions so that American businesses can be successful. I think we need each other ... We provide many services ... we give you a patent or a trademark, census data, we provide American community service data, we give you your weather information. We need to make sure that all the work that we're doing ... that we're doing it in a format and a fashion and a pace that keeps up with American business. 

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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