Two world-famous industry and government leaders, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, spoke about the importance of immigration reform at The New England Council event last night in Boston in front of an audience of 250 people that included ILC staff.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino introduced the topic by talking about the importance of immigrants in Boston. He noted the importance of immigrants to Boston’s economy, specifically in neighborhood businesses, hospitals and restaurants. The ILC-commissioned research about neighborhood businesses, the health care industry, and leisure and hospitality supports this.
Menino concluded saying, “Immigration is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s an American issue. It goes to the heart of what we want our country to be. We should be less concerned about where people come from and more concerned about where they are going.”
Bloomberg expressed concern that the U.S. could lose its superiority in higher education because foreign students are educated here and sent back to their home countries to pursue their research, saying, “We’re taking the best and the brightest. They get their PhDs, or their masters, and then we send them overseas. They can’t teach here, they can’t do their research here.”
On the Economy
Both gentlemen stressed the importance of immigration to growing the U.S. economy and to new business start-ups in particular. They agreed that foreign-born graduates with science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees should be issued green cards instead of relying on the H1B visa system in place today.
Immigrants, Bloomberg said, “help our economy grow, put Americans back to work and make sure industries of the future are created here.” He also talked about the importance of immigrants to neighborhood revitalization and proposed that the federal government encourage immigration in declining U.S. cities. “People don’t come here to put their feet up and collect welfare. They come here to work.”
Murdoch talked about the importance of immigrants in high-tech industries saying, “Silicon Valley is misnamed. It’s immigrant valley.”
On the Likelihood of Immigration Reform
Bloomberg felt that there is agreement among the American people, and the business community in particular, about the need for immigration reform. Unfortunately, he feels, progress is blocked because Congress is so polarized neither party wants to be seen working with the other on any issue, and the president will need to take the lead on this issue.
Both Bloomberg and Murdoch felt that Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is making a mistake by not embracing more open immigration policies because, as Murdoch said, “the nativists are not going to vote for Obama anyway.”
The final question of the evening asked by moderator Jerald F. Seib from the Wall Street Journal was, “Two years from now will immigration laws have changed?” The optimistic answer from both speakers was “yes.” This is an issue that cannot be ignored. In particular, Bloomberg predicted that the issue will be addressed in the first two years of the new presidential administration, before the next mid-term elections.
Bloomberg and Murdoch are two of nine co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national, nonpartisan group of 450 mayors and business leaders dedicated to raising awareness of the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform. The Partnership released a new report yesterday Open for Business. How Immigrants Are Driving Small Business Creation in the United States showing the increasingly important role that immigrants play in creating new businesses.