Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he believes economic conditions would improve if the U.S. increased its exports and revamped its immigration policies.
In an address to members of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Blumenthal said Feb. 1 at the Stamford Plaza Hotel that job market expansion and economic growth remain top priorities in Washington.
Connecticut’s senior senator said he’s seen several positive economic indicators in the past year, but that government should increase efforts to boost exports.
“I will work on trade policies, tax incentives and a range of measures we’re putting together in Washington to support exports by Connecticut as well as other states,” he said. “Connecticut should benefit more than other states because we are an exporting state.”
Blumenthal said it doesn’t matter where goods are shipped — only that government officials help businesses find ways to export more.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center in Middletown announced it was launching a series of monthly webinars and events to help small businesses break into international exporting.
Connecticut businesses exported $16.2 billion in goods and services in 2011, according to Department of Commerce data.
Additionally, Blumenthal stressed the importance of addressing immigration policy.
“Immigration reform is one of the unaddressed challenges in this nation that has gone on for far too long,” he said. “We have allowed our system to be broken.”
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security, Blumenthal said he supports the recent bipartisan proposal on immigration and looks forward to continuing those efforts and discussions.
Blumenthal has been a strong advocate for the DREAM Act, legislation introduced in Congress every year since 2001 but never passed, that would allow undocumented youth to become citizens after earning a college degree or serving in the military for two years.
In late January, Blumenthal also helped introduce the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 to increase the amount of visas and green cards for highly-skilled immigrants.
Blumenthal said the uncertainty that comes with applying for citizenship often prevents foreigners — many of who went to college in the United States — from staying in the country.
“This is a country that educates people and then basically says you can’t work here,” Blumenthal said.
He said about 40,000 students will graduate from U.S. colleges next year and go into computer-related fields, compared with as many as 120,000 job openings in those fields.
“That’s an area where the economy is affected by what the government does,” he said.
Continued bipartisan efforts, such as the conversations over immigration reforms and mental health care in the wake of the Newtown shooting, are necessary, Blumenthal said.
He attributed the delayed action on the fiscal cliff to the partisan divide in Congress, saying that he hopes Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together to find a common ground. He acknowledged that the Washington political climate has created an air of uncertainty, which puts a drag on business expansion and the economy.
“That deal could have been better, could have been bigger,” he said. “If there’s a New Year’s resolution in Washington, it’s change the way Washington does business.”