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Bank of America CEO Warns Immigration Crackdown Could Crimp Economy

Bradley Keoun

Bank of America Corp. CEO Brian Moynihan has waded into the national debate over immigration, warning that a slowdown in the influx of workers from abroad could crimp economic growth.

Immigration is a key driver of population growth, which in turn fuels the economy, he said this week at a financial-industry conference in Boston, according to the American Banker. And immigrants represent a key source of labor and consumption for local businesses.

"People miss that nuance when they talk about how we're going to grow," Moynihan said, according to the publication. "If you look at other countries in the world that struggle with growth in developed economies, they have one thing in common, and their populations aren't growing."

Moynihan joins CEOs from corporations like Apple Inc. , General Electric and Ford Motor Corp. in pushing back against pieces of President Donald Trump plans to curb immigration to the U.S. The president has taken steps to increase deportations, limit visas for specialized workers, erect a wall along the Mexico border and ban entry to people from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

Whereas most of the other CEOs have complained that they would have a harder time finding highly skilled workers in areas like technology, engineering and finance, Moynihan may be one of the first executives to warn of the impact to the economy more broadly from the curbs.

Moynihan said at the industry conference that tighter immigration policies could undermine any benefit the U.S. economy gets from Trump's proposed tax cuts, the American Banker noted.

Larry Di Rita, a spokesman for Bank of America, said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company has not taken an official position on immigration policy.

"He's just making a macroeconomic observation, quite apart from the policy discussions that we haven't taken a position on," Di Rita said by telephone.

Giovanni Peri, chair of the economics department at University of California-Davis and an expert on immigration, said research shows that Moynihan is "basically right" in his comments.

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Local economies are dependent on immigrant workers for restaurant, construction and domestic jobs, he said. Those workers in turn spend their earnings in the local economy. Often, they also open bank accounts, he noted.

"He's on solid ground when he says that one of the very important things that immigration has done in the U.S. over the past 30 years is growing the labor force," Peri said in a phone interview. "We're doing fiscal stimulus, cutting taxes, but reduced immigration could produce a slowdown that might offset a good chunk of any potential boost."

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