Mayor Bloomberg on Immigration

In a recent interview on Meet the Press, New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to quell speculation that he might stage an independent run for president in 2012, telling David Gregory, “No, I’m not looking at the possibility of running [for president]. I’ve got a great job, and I’m going to stay with it.” (See Meet the Press with David Gregory, MSNBC, 12.Dec.2010.) That said, Mayor Bloomberg’s tendency to speak out on issues of national interest – such as immigration reform – suggests we should take his denial with a pinch of salt.

Over the past several months, Mayor Bloomberg has become a leading national voice in the immigration debate, staking his considerable credibility as a politician and self-made billionaire on a campaign to bring about meaningful reform of our immigration system. Late last week, Mayor Bloomberg gathered an impressive roster of top executives at a meeting of the Partnership for New York City, launching a new, national business coalition to promote the economic benefits of an immigration overhaul. (See Bloomberg Talks Immigration with Business Titans, by Sam Dolnick, New York Times, City Room Blog, 10.Dec.2010.)

Among the assembled business leviathans were press baron Rupert Murdoch, American Express Chairman and CEO, Ken Chenault, Macy’s President and CEO, Terry Lundgren, and a Who’s Who of others. (See Mayor Bloomberg Announces Immigration Reform Partnership is Now Over 100 Members Strong, Press Release from Partnership for a New American Economy.) According to the press release, Mayor Bloomberg told the group that:

“I’ve always said immigration is neither a Republican issue, nor a Democratic issue – it’s an economic issue. New York is a city of immigrants and, in fact, our economy is one of the fastest growing in the country. New York City and American business leaders understand that our future prosperity depends on new policy that will attract and keep the workers we need to compete in the increasingly competitive global economy.”

As the New York Times summarized Bloomberg’s remarks, “The economy is suffering because of Washington’s failure to change restrictive policies, he said, and talented entrepreneurs were taking their ideas to other countries that are only too happy to host them.” According to the Times, Mayor Bloomberg called the immigration debate “the most important issue facing the country.”

Mayor Bloomberg continued in a similar vein during his wide-ranging interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press saying, “…what’s really worrisome is, because of our immigration policy, the next great thing might be invented or developed elsewhere, not in our economy.” Asked what he would do to move the country forward, at a time of tough economic choices, Bloomberg responded:

“First thing is open the doors to those with the skills we need from around the world. I think the whole issue of what you do with 11 million undocumented, I feel very strongly we should give them a path to citizenship. But, regardless, the whole issue of family reunification, it’s a compassion thing, understand that, but we cannot let those two issues, which are controversial and will take some time to work out, get in the way of right away starting to make sure anybody that gets a graduate degree in America from overseas gets a green card attached to their diploma. That’s the way that we are going to keep going. You know, all these other countries are trying to attract the best and the brightest, and we’re helping them. It’s even worse; we’re educating them and then helping them. This is craziness. I call it national suicide. We have to go and get the immigrants here. So the first thing I would do is that, and that doesn’t cost any money.”

Well put, Mr. Bloomberg. One wonders whether the Democrats and Republicans will heed Mr. Bloomberg’s warning. If they don’t, perhaps he will jump into the presidential race, after all. Stay tuned.

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