NEW YORK – Mayor Michael Bloomberg has waded into the fight for immigration reform with a new strategy – and a new message – designed to win over reluctant conservatives who oppose reform efforts. Bloomberg on Thursday joined a number of other big-city mayors and chief executives of major corporations to announce a “Partnership for a New American Economy” which has the primary goal of obtaining immigration reform. Their message: immigration reform will stimulate the economy.
The high profile politicians and businessmen in the Partnership are voicing what immigrant-rights groups have been saying for years. To kick off their campaign, Bloomberg took the message to a largely skeptical audience. He appeared on Fox News to discuss the effort, along with Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp, which owns Fox.
“Immigrants can come here and create jobs. There’s this belief that immigrants come here and take jobs away, and that’s not true,” Bloomberg told viewers. He is lobbying Congress to not only secure the U.S. borders, but to give green cards to immigrant entrepreneurs so they can come to the U.S. and start companies that hire 10 or more Americans.
“We’re just going to keep the pressure on the congressmen,” Murdoch said. “I think we can show to the public the benefits of having migrants and the jobs that go with them.”
According to the group, immigrants generate 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and own companies that have created 400,000 new American jobs since 1990. Allowing hard working immigrants in is “in our interest” said the mayor.
Numerous reports support the claim that legalizing undocumented immigrants would stimulate the American economy, including a prominent one by the Center for American Progress.
Representatives from the agriculture industry, the tech industry, science and the creative fields have long said immigration reform is critical if they are to remain competitive. Bloomberg said hurdles in the current immigration system make it difficult to attract the global talent America needs.
Another member of the group, J.W. Marriott, Jr., CEO of Marriott International, said it would be impossible to run his hotels in the U.S. without immigrant workers.
Bloomberg said the coalition will expand and recruit members that support comprehensive immigration reform that secures U.S. borders and helps America remain economically competitive “by keeping and attracting the world’s best, brightest and hardest-working.” The group will be paying for polls, forums and public education campaigns to support reform.
They want Congress to pass immigration reform this year. Our current system is “national suicide,” Bloomberg said.
In New York, the mayor’s words resonated with the city’s huge immigrant population. In a statement, Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, applauded Bloomberg and said she hopes this effort “will build on the momentum generated by immigrant community, faith, and labor leaders over the past year, and provide that extra push to break through the legislative logjam in Washington.”
But some local immigrant advocates expressed frustration that while Bloomberg lobbies for reform, funding for the city’s Immigrant Opportunity Initiative, which provides legal assistance and English classes to immigrants, is slated to be cut in next budget.
“What we need to do is bring it back to a very local level. While these other things are important,” said Danny Dromm, the chair of the City Council’s Immigration Committee. “What matters most to the people here is getting them some services so they can transition into productive lives in New York City, where he is the mayor.”
The Partnership co-chairs are Mayor Bloomberg; Mark Hurd, Chairman, CEO and President of Hewlett-Packard; Robert Iger, President and CEO, Walt Disney Co.; J.W. Marriott, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, Inc.; Jim McNerney, Chairman, President and CEO of Boeing; Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, CEO and Founder of News Corporation; Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio; Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix; Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia; and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.