New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says both presidential candidates should be supporting reform of the immigration system and should publicly state how they intend to use the system to benefit the economy.
15 August 2012
New York mayor urges presidential candidates to address US immigration
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said failure to reform the US immigration system is 'economic suicide' and has urged both candidates in November's presidential election to speak out on the issue prior to the election.
With the American economy still floundering, it's unlikely that any other issue will determine the outcome of November's election more. However, with several significant events affecting immigration policy in recent months, the issue has emerged as one of the most significant in the race for the White House.
Mayor Bloomberg claims the two issues are not mutually exclusive and by fixing the US immigration system to allow more people with the potential to start and grow businesses or research and teach in America, the economy will be better able to recover.
Speaking before business leaders in Boston and Chicago yesterday as well as in an editorial, Mayor Bloomberg said "America is committing economic suicide by failing to confront the issue of immigration reform".
Mayor Bloomberg cited a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group made up mayors and business leaders of which Mayor Bloomberg is a member, which said immigrant business owners contributed $775 billion (£494 billion) to American GDP and employed 10% of the American workforce in the private sector.
"I know of no ways to help our economy as quickly and as cost-free as opening up proper ways to people who will come here, create jobs, create businesses, help our universities," said the New York mayor.
"Immigration is what built this country, immigration is what kept this country going for the last 235 years and now we seem to have walked away from it."
Mayor Bloomberg, currently an independent politician but who as previously been a member of both major political parties, has urged both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to come out and publicly address the issue before November.
President Obama promised reform of the immigration system prior to his 2008 election win but failed to receive the support of the Congress for the DREAM Act which would give some illegal immigrants the chance to earn citizenship status. This failure, combined with his administration’s record levels of deportations, has soured his popularity among some.
In order to combat this and achieve some of the things he set out to do, President Obama issued an executive order in June to essentially accomplish certain factors of the DREAM Act without needing congressional approval. The Deferred Action directive, which came into effect this week, allowed any illegal immigrant brought to the US as a child to avoid deportation and obtain a two work permit if they met a few basic conditions.
The president's challenger Mitt Romney however, took a much harsher line of approach during the Republican primary, promoting a policy of 'self deportation' and labelling Arizona's tough US immigration law a 'model for the nation'.
Mr Romney has since softened his approach but still found objection with the Deferred Action directive. The former Massachusetts governor criticised the order but refused to say whether he would rescind it as president.
Instead, Mr Romney said he would strive to find a 'civil but resolute' long term solution to the issue which would simply supersede the Deferred Action directive.
Mayor Bloomberg has been a longstanding advocate of immigration reform, he supported the DREAM Act and has labelled the Republican approach toward tougher immigration policies 'one of the dumbest strategies' he had ever heard of.
The three term mayor, who also owns Bloomberg LP and is the richest man in the city he runs, said both candidates need to demonstrate their leadership by speaking out on such a contentious issue.
"Brilliant, gutsy people, leaders, make investments when times are tough and leaders bring along other people."
In order to tackle the issue, Mayor Bloomberg suggested foreign graduates on STEM (science, technology, mathematics and engineering) courses should be granted green cards, a specific US visa program for entrepreneurs and a guest worker program for seasonal labour.
He used the open immigration systems of Canada and Australia as examples to illustrate his point that immigration should be used to support the country.
"Every other growing country is encouraging immigration, paying people to come and open businesses.
"Those immigrants don't come to go on welfare, they take risks and they work hard to make a better life for their children.
"We can't keep our prosperity by keeping others from getting it."
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.