WASHINGTON — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and media baron Rupert Murdoch Thursday urged members of Congress to reach across party lines to fix "our broken system of immigration."
Testifying before a House of Representatives immigration subcommittee, Bloomberg said politicians in Washington should focus on the economics of the issue, rather than its emotional impact.
"Since 1990, cities with the largest increase in immigrant workers have had the fastest economic growth," he said.
Bloomberg said that New York has fared better economically than other U.S. cities due in part to its large immigrant population.
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Murdoch, the Australian-born chairman and chief executive of News Corp., urged Congress to revamp the nation's immigration laws to help lead immigrants out of a "shadow economy" and help them become taxpayers.
"America is desperately in need of improving our country's human capital," Murdoch said.
Still, both men argued that changing the existing immigration system must be matched with substantial efforts to beef up border security and provide tools for employers to ensure they are hiring workers who can work legally.
"We can, and should, add more people, technology and resources to ensuring that we have control over who comes in to this country," Murdoch said.
There are approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., many of whom are unskilled workers who fill jobs in the lower echelons of the labor market. Conservatives and liberals are split on how to deal with immigrants already in the U.S. Some members of Congress advocate deportation, while others lobby for a path to citizenship.
Bloomberg was especially frustrated with the lack of progress Congress has made on immigration.
"What frustrates the American public is that we can't understand why you guys complain about illegal immigrants coming over the border but you don't do anything about it," he said.
Bloomberg and Murdoch recently created a Partnership for a New American Economy, a group comprised of mayors and business leaders to help address the issue of immigration as it relates to the business community.
Until comprehensive immigration legislation is enacted, Bloomberg said supply-and-demand would ensure the number of undocumented immigrants continues to rise.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that the issue of undocumented workers is a legal issue, rather than an economic one.
"Whatever the analysis of the economics, we have the rule of law," King said. "I am certainly not going to set aside the rule of law for the economics."
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., lamented the notion that the national debate over immigration has degraded to a point where many skilled workers are discouraged from attempting to enter the U.S.
"Our national dialogue sounds as though we don't want people to come here," Weiner said.
Bloomberg worried that such talk risks losing America's reputation as the "land of the free, home of the brave."
"We are not attractive to an awful lot of people who are afraid to come here," he said. "We educate them here — and then, in effect, tell them to take that knowledge to start jobs in other countries . . . That just makes no sense whatsoever."
(The Medill News Service is a Washington program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Wright is a graduate student in journalism.)
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