The U.S. government’s failure to set an immigration policy places its economy at risk, creating a barrier to attracting educated and skilled entrepreneurs and entry-level labor, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
“We will not remain a global superpower if we continue to close our doors to the people who want to come here to work hard, start businesses and pursue the American dream,” Bloomberg said today in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations meeting in Washington. “It’s what I call national suicide -- and that’s not hyperbole.”
Bloomberg, 69, has for years advocated easing visa and citizen requirements for foreign students and entrepreneurs, and he favors giving more than 10 million illegal immigrants a chance to become lawful residents.
Last year, he became one of several mayors and business leaders, including News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Chief Executive Officer Steven Ballmer of Microsoft Corp., to create the Partnership for a New American Economy. The bipartisan group describes itself on its website as seeking “to raise awareness of the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform.”
A study by the group that Bloomberg will release today asserts that “a large percentage of Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant -- or by a child of immigrants,” the mayor’s office said in a news release.
Founded by Immigrants
“American companies founded by immigrants or their children have revenues that are greater than the gross national product of every country in the world outside the United States, except two, and that’s China and Japan,” Bloomberg said in his prepared remarks.
“The reason is simple,” he said. “Immigrants are dreamers and risk-takers who are driven to succeed, because they know that in America hard work and talent are rewarded like no place else.”
Bloomberg said he thought there was a chance that Congress could agree on immigration-law changes, including overhauling the system so that businesses could hire more skilled workers for jobs they can’t fill and foreign entrepreneurs could start companies here. Such steps could prevent companies from shifting operations overseas for lack of workers, he said.
No Labor Shortage
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, said the mayor’s approach would encourage companies to hire lower-paid foreign workers and depress wages.
“We have no shortage of labor in this country,” said Mehlman, whose Washington-based group advocates stricter immigration curbs. “It ought to be incumbent on businesses in this country to recruit from domestic pool of labor, to invest in workers to bring their skills up to where they need them to be, rather than to treat the government as an employment agency.”
In New York City, with about 8.2 million people, some 40 percent are foreign-born, the mayor has said. In April, the city’s unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent, a 25-month low. The national rate was 9 percent then.
Enacting laws to let younger illegal immigrants gain legal status and to ease the visa process for students and entrepreneurs have been described by President Barack Obama as a “moral imperative.”
Democrats in Congress are urging passage of legislation to let some younger illegal immigrants gain legal status. The so- called Dream Act, blocked in the Senate last year, would let people who came to the U.S. illegally before 16 and who remain at least five years gain legal residency after attending college or serving in the military at least two years.
Republican opponents, including Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a member of the Judiciary Committee, have said it provides a form of amnesty and may offer a safe harbor to some people with criminal records.
Bloomberg is founder and majority leader of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
--With Assistance from Catherine Dodge in Washington. Editors: Stephen Merelman, Mark Schoifet
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