Campaign 2012Campaign 2012


PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite


A Conversation with Michael Bloomberg

Introductory Speaker: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
Speaker: Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York
Presider: Julia Preston, National Immigration Correspondent, New York Times
Symposium: The Future of U.S. Immigration Policy: Next Steps
Council on Foreign Relations



RICHARD HAASS (president, Council on Foreign Relations): If we could get started, I want to -- about to do the last session of the conference, and I'd like to think we've saved the best for last. We certainly saved the last for last.

We have with us the mayor of the greatest city, I would think, in the country, if not the world. And one of the reasons the city is so great is because of our mayor. The reason he is here today is not simply because New York has become incredibly livable, and the quantity and quality of life is about as good as it gets, what he's doing with schools, but also how he's using the job and the position as an important platform for public policy, and -- whether it's talking about issues of climate change and the C40 group and looking at how we use energy and climate -- and what we do about climate change around the world, and also the subject of today, immigration.

And where so many people in public life, alas, seem to be running away from issues, however important, that are controversial, one of the many reasons I admire our mayor, in addition to the fact that he actually counts every stroke on the golf course, is -- (laughter) -- this tells a lot about somebody, by the way -- is that he, rather than running away from some of the tougher issues of the day, he's actually embracing them. And he's giving them a degree of attention and degree of focus and degree of serious conversation that, again, makes him, alas, all too, I think, unique in our public debate.

So the subject of the whole day has been immigration. And Mayor Bloomberg is going to give a talk onto the subject. Afterwards he is going to take some questions from Julia Preston.

Julia's been with The New York Times, now, for just over 15 years. She's a national correspondent with a special focus on this set of issues, on immigration. I've known her for even longer than that, from not just her time at the Times, but also her time at The Washington Post, and really not for more than a quarter of a century. She has been, I believe, one of the leading if not the leading journalist in the United States who's been regularly paying attention to developments to our south in this hemisphere and the issues that relate domestically to it.

So let me thank them both for being here. Let me thank you all for, again, showing this degree of interest throughout the day -- sticking it out. Mayor Bloomberg, welcome, and we're thrilled to have you at the council, sir.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I will point out that Richard also counts every stroke on the golf course, particularly when I remind him that he was in the woods and I heard five times the branches go whack- whack-whack. (Laughter.) We did play the other day, and he played very well. Hits the ball a long ways -- if they would put the green in the woods on either side -- (laughter) -- it would help, but other than that minor problem -- but we had -- our match did not get as much coverage as the Boehner-Obama match. We didn't have as much security around.

Anyways, it's always nice to come to a city with a baseball team that is below the Mets in the standings -- (boos, laughter) -- hey, you know, as the Cub fans say, it's still early. (Laughter.)

But seriously, it's really a pleasure to be with you today to discuss one of, I think, the most important issues facing our country. Everyone agrees that our broken immigration system is a huge problem, but no one -- certainly not in Washington -- can agree on how to fix it. And today I would like to talk about how I think we can fix it, and how we can do it in a way so that both Democrats and Republicans, or at least enough of them, can sign on in support.

You know, it really is ironic that the immigration issue that divides this city -- is this -- dividing this particular city, because so much of Washington was built by immigrants. The street design was drawn up by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French immigrant; the White House was designed by an Irish immigrant named James Hoban; and the U.S. Capitol designed by William Thornton, a British immigrant.

And those buildings are not only monuments to our democracy, they are monuments to the contributions that millions of immigrants have made to America throughout its history.

But our country's greatest national monument perhaps and the American landmark that is really most recognized around the world is not the dome of the Capitol here in Washington or the pillars of the White House or the memorials on the National Mall. It is the Statue of Liberty.

Since 1886 -- what, a 125 years ago this October -- Lady Liberty's torch has brought light to the darkest corners of the earth, beckoning here to America's shores all those, as they say, yearning to breathe free. Yet it's not Lady Liberty's torch or her crown or her broken chains that has inspired so much awe. It is really her location.

The power of her symbol lies in the reality of New York City as a gateway, a golden door to the land of opportunity that is the United States of America and still is the United States of America. We should not forget that. That reality is not just our history, however. It is also our future, and we have to make sure that we can maintain that for our children.

We would not have become a global superpower without the contributions of immigrants who built the railroads and the canals and opened up the West or invented groundbreaking products that have revolutionized global commerce or who pioneered scientific engineering and medical advances that made America the most innovative country in the world.

But make no mistake about it. 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.

That American dream cannot survive if we keep telling the dreamers to go elsewhere. It's what I call national suicide, and that's not hyperbole -- that every day what we fail -- that we fail to fix our broken immigration laws is a day that we inflict a wound on our economy.

And today, we may just this morning have turned away the next Albert Einstein or Sergey Brin. Tomorrow we may turn away the next Levi Strauss or Jerry Yang. And certainly we will be turning away many of the people who, like my grandparents and no doubt many of yours, came to this country with almost nothing except one thing: a desire to work and work and work and work and work, to build a better life for themselves, and certainly, if not for themselves, for their families.

This morning, the Partnership for a New American Economy released a report that looks at the impact of immigrants on one major sector of the American economy, and that's Fortune 500 companies. The report finds that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or by the child of an immigrant. These immigrant- rooted companies employ more than 10 million people worldwide, which is a population larger than 43 of our states have, and they generate annual revenue of something like $4.2 trillion. To put that number in context, 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 of the United States except two, and that's China and Japan.

And those are just the Fortune 500 companies. When you look at the economy as a whole, immigrants and their children have been responsible for creating millions of jobs in all 50 states. And the reason is simple: 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 on the globe.

And no city has seen the economic power of immigrants more clearly than New York. Historically immigrants are why New York City became America's economic engine, and in more recent history, they are one of the main reasons why we have rebounded so strongly from the tough times that we faced in the 1970s and the 1980s. Neighborhoods that 25 years ago were abandoned are now thriving, thanks largely to immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Ecuador and Mexico and China and Russia and Ghana, Korea, India, Pakistan, Poland, Egypt, every country in the world.

There's no greater force for economic revitalization of depressed neighborhoods than the influx of immigrants. And that's not just true in New York. Immigrants have been critical to economic rebounding in small towns and big cities across America.

Take Perry, Iowa, for example. A decade ago, it was facing economic stagnation caused by years of population decline. But today, thanks to a influx of immigrant labor and immigrant entrepreneurs who have opened businesses, the town's main street is now bustling. Tiny town -- immigrants make a difference.

The same is true of Livingston, Maine -- Lewiston, Maine, a decaying old mill town that has come back to life thanks to an influx of immigrants from Africa. In Atlanta, a big city, which has worked hard to become a magnet for well-educated immigrants, the purchasing power of Latinos and Asians has skyrocketed. And across the country, city after city, with the largest increase in immigrant workers, has experienced the fastest economic growth. There is just no question about the numbers. And in New York immigrants are a big reason why we have weathered the national recession better than the country as a whole.

Now immigration reform could be an economic engine for our entire country, creating good paying jobs that will speed up our recovery. But both major political parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say that restoring economic growth is their top priority, and it must be.

And yet they don't come to face the one thing that can do the job.

Yet today, more than three years after our country entered its deepest recession in decades, the single most powerful step that the federal government could take to spur job growth is reforming our broken immigration system. And it, unfortunately, is a casualty of partisan gridlock.

Republicans have tended to focus on border control, and understandably so. It is critically important to our nation's security, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with America being in charge of its borders and deciding who comes here. Right now, the selection process is who wants to come here the most: They either overstay their visa or they'll come and run across the border. We should be deciding who comes here; there's nothing wrong with that.

Democrats, on the other hand, have tried to focus on comprehensive reform, and that's understandable too. It's critically important that we do create a pathway to permanent legal status for the 11 million people who have overstayed their visas or come here illegally.

But by this point, unfortunately, I think one thing is clear: It is clear that the two sides have reached a stalemate, and they are just talking right past each other.

And that leaves us with two choices. Both sides can use the stalemate as a wedge issue to secure political points in 2012, or they can come together and adopt immigration reforms that will spur new companies, strengthen existing ones and help create jobs for the 13.9 million Americans who are unemployed and looking for work.

In the end, the public cares about two things: housing and jobs. My house, my job. And if you want to do something in this country to give people better jobs and more jobs and a better chance to keep their houses, the one thing that we can do that will work is not expensive for this country.

It's not a big stimulus of trillions of dollars. It is immigration reform that will get the best and brightest from around the world, those that are the hungriest and willing to work the hardest, to come here and create exactly what we need.

Now, as the 2012 election begins to take shape, voters across the country, I think, are going to be looking for candidates with an economic plan that is -- that are -- economic plans that are achievable and not aspirational. For independent voters especially, immigration reform will be a key test to whether candidates are willing to put sound economics ahead of election year politics; at least, it will be if I have anything to say about it.

Independent voters will determine the outcomes of the next election, just as they did in 2010 and in 2008. And while they don't hold all the same positions on any one issue, they overwhelmingly want leadership that is pragmatic, not polarizing. They want centralist solutions, not pandering to the special interest. And they want both sides to stop fighting on what they disagree on, and start taking action on the areas where they do agree. And there are actually quite a few areas where they agree if you think about it.

Leaders in both parties recognize that the current system is a drag on our economy. I thought it was encouraging that President Obama recently said that increasing opportunity for immigrants to come is a top priority. And likewise, I thought it was encouraging to see House Republicans put forward a plan for American job creators that includes more visas for the workers we need. And you'd be hard pressed to find a single economist who thinks that the status quo is good for our economy.

And voters understand all these things. A recent survey showed that two-thirds of Americans and three-quarters of business leaders recognize that immigrants play an important role in our economy. And that's why our Partnership for a New American Economy, which I co- founded last year with Rupert Murdoch, has attracted so many CEOs. And I have to tell you, recruiting new members is one of the easiest pitches I have ever made.

And so with all these agreement, the real question you've got to be asking is: Why can't Washington get anything done? Well, I think the answer is that we can get something done. And today I thought I'd outline five key areas where I believe bipartisan agreement largely exists in Congress and where action could be taken immediately and where the impact on our economy would be profound.

First, we must stop providing a first-rate education in science and technology to foreign students and then force them to leave. Students come from around the world to study here. More than 40 percent of our engineering graduates are foreign-born. They lead ground-breaking research at the very frontiers of science, but then many are forced to leave when it becomes clear that a permanent visa will be difficult if not impossible to get.

So instead of staying here to contribute to our economy, they go home and they go to work for companies that compete with our own companies. It just makes no sense. We're investing millions of dollars to educate these students at our leading universities and then giving the economic dividends back to our competitors for free.

The two parties should be able to agree on a policy that allows any university graduate with an advanced degree in an essential field to obtain a green card and a chance to help grow our economy. We must allow those students to stay here and be part of our future, or we will watch our future disappear with them.

Second, we must stop telling foreign entrepreneurs to build their companies in other countries. America is the best place in the world to start a business. But rather than capitalize on our assets by encouraging innovators to come here and stay, we are rejecting immigrant entrepreneurs, even when they're backed by American investors. Just remember, immigrants helped found Google and Yahoo! and eBay and Intel and so many more companies.

In fact, immigrants helped found one-quarter of all high-tech companies over the last 10 years. And across all industries, they are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start companies. We need more of these dynamic entrepreneurs. And if we do not open our doors to them, they will go elsewhere, and the good paying jobs that they create will go with them.

A foreign entrepreneur from American investors should be given a temporary visa to start a company in America. And if, after two or three years, the business has successfully yielded new American jobs, the entrepreneur should be allowed to continue to run his or her business and receive permanent legal status.

We're a nation of entrepreneurs because we are a nation of immigrants. And in the 21st century, the global economy will revolve more and more around those entrepreneurs.

Third, we must stop telling American companies that they cannot hire the high-skilled workers they need. By making it difficult for them to obtain temporary and permanent visas for high-skilled workers, the federal government is slowing growth and worse, promoting the outsourcing of American jobs. Make no mistake about it: If companies can't hire the workers they need here, they will move those operations out of the country. You just have to look at Microsoft's recent decision to open a research park in Vancouver. There's lots of West Coast companies that now have offices in Canada because they can't get the engineers into this company (sic).

In many high-tech companies -- for one -- that you see again and again -- talk to the owners. Talk to the managers. Talk to the stockholders. They are outside of the United States, but they'd prefer to be here. It's just that we won't let them bring in the talent they need.

And we not only lose those jobs, we lose their spending, and we lose their taxes. Again, this just makes no sense. We are stabbing ourselves in the back even as our economy is in critical condition.

The ability to attract and keep high-skilled labor is just essential for American companies competing on the world market.

And that's true not only for high-tech companies but also for banks and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, and even manufacturing firms with large research and development operations like Boeing and Caterpillar.

But right now, the cap on H1-B visas and green cards is much too low. And caps on green cards are set by countries, so Iceland actually gets the same number of visas as India. That may be fair to those two countries, but it's certainly not fair to American business and to Americans. We should give -- end these arbitrary limits and end the cap on the high-skilled H1-B visas. Let the marketplace decide. It's basic free-market economics, and both parties ought to be able to get behind it.

Fourth, we must ensure that major industries, such as agriculture and tourism, that rely on those workers just starting up the economic ladder, have access to foreign workers when they cannot fill the jobs with American workers. These employers want a legal workforce, but our current system just makes that extremely difficult. Firms have to go through multiple levels of approvals to do basic hiring, and in Georgia, where they crack down on illegal farm workers, farm owners are experiencing severe labor shortages that's driving up their cost and leaving crops unharvested. At a time when food prices are rising, this is the last thing American consumers and farmers need.

Fifth and finally, we must begin allocating more green cards based on economic needs. Right now, only about 15 percent of all green cards go to employees and their dependents, while the rest go largely to immigrants, families and relatives.

In Canada, those numbers are exactly reversed. Last year, two- thirds of immigrants to Canada came based on economic reasons, and only 21 percent came based on family reasons. Those that come based on economic reasons are creating the economy for all the people in that country.

We're not doing what Canada's doing. Why not? American has to honor our tradition of always being open to the tired and tempest-tossed, no argument about that. We are a land of opportunity because we've always been a country of compassion.

But as we continue to be a place of refuge and reunion, we must open our doors more widely to the talented and hardworking people who can make critical contributions to our economic growth and prosperity. And that means raising green card limits based on our economic needs, so that we can allow the people who will most help our country to come here, work, invest, and start businesses.

Now, the five areas that I've outlined present, I think, real opportunities for bipartisan agreement. And they are steps that can be taken right now to help create jobs and drive prosperity across the country. And remember, everybody says we don't have any money for new programs. Not one of the things that I outlined would cost a penny. It's all contribution, no expense.

So it's pretty hard to think that in the end the American public isn't going to say to Congress: Enough. We've got to do something. I'm worried about my house. I'm worried about my job. And there's a solution that you can't say you can't afford, a solution that we know has worked in many other places, a solution that you could implement very quickly. Do it now. That means more green cards for university graduates, more visas for entrepreneurs, more visas for high-skilled workers, more visas for agricultural and other seasonal laborers and more visas that are distributed based on economic needs.

Now, in the coming weeks Congress is expected to consider again the Dream Act and E-Verify. But pass or fail, I think the time has come to refocus the immigration debate around the most pressing issue facing the country today. And that is creating jobs.

The conversation here in Washington on immigration must be about more than fences and fingerprints.

It must be about what kind of country do we want America to be. Do we want to continue to be the land of opportunity for all and the world's greatest economic power and the nation with the most high-paying jobs and the best quality of life, or do we want to send more jobs overseas and watch other countries rival our economic strength and leave our country -- leave our children a country in decline?

America has always been on a forward march because we have always welcomed more people to march with us. But now the biggest threat to our future lies in denying our past. In New York Harbor, Lady Liberty is stepping forward. And here in her 125th year, so must we. We must honor, I think, the values that made America great. We must embrace the realities of the 21st-century global economy. And we must hold our elected officials accountable for delivering results, not speeches; for seeking consensus, not controversy; for promoting economic growth, not political advantage.

Maybe more than any other major issue in Washington today, there is an opportunity for bipartisan breakthrough on immigration. If both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue seize it -- and it's up to us to push them -- we can help get our economy moving again, and the best days for our country and for the dreamers who define it will still be there to come.

So thank you. And I look forward to having Julia ask me the most penetrating questions that she can possibly come up with, which I will artfully duck. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

JULIA PRESTON: Mayor Bloomberg, there is a counter argument being made, actually today in a hearing on the Hill, about immigration. And that is that we need to focus on illegal immigration and enforcement against illegal immigration, and for every illegal immigrant that we take out of the workforce by enforcement, you're creating a job for an American worker -- you're opening a job for an American worker.

And I think that vision -- it permeates, perhaps, the debate. In a context of very high unemployment in the country, it's a very persuasive idea that an immigrant is competing for -- with an unemployed American for jobs.

So how do you counter that out in the country when people are hurting for work?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, I think the actuary for Social Security said if you were to deport all 11 million -- and who knows what the number really is -- 11 million undocumented, that Social Security would go bankrupt six years early. Why? Because they pay into Social Security, but they don't get anything back.

I'm not an expert on 11 million undocumented in the country, but I'm a quasi-expert on the 500,000 undocumented in New York City. And we look pretty hard to see what really is going on in our economy. I can tell you this: At least in New York City, undocumented have a very low crime rate because they're scared to death of going near the INS.

Undocumented do not use the schools very much. It tends to be young people leaving their families back home, and they send back their earnings, but they don't bring their children. There are some, but generally speaking, immigrant children in our school system are the children of documented immigrants.

They don't use the hospitals very much, no matter what the naysayers say. Why? Because they're young people, and we use two thirds of our hospital medical expense in the latter years of our life. And these are young people. They're not here for that length of time.

They pay taxes. Something like 75 percent of all undocumented in New York City pay taxes. Why? Their employer witholds. The employer doesn't want to go to jail, so the employer witholds and sends the money in. And then where does the refund go?

There is no refund. So the federal government is actually making money on undocumented.

And lastly, they don't do things like come and use the social services that you think. They don't want to get involved in government; they don't live in public housing; they don't qualify for a lot of federal programs where documentation is something that you have to --

So that's the issue first with what the 11 million do here.

MS. PRESTON: I guess my question is also about the narrative --


MS. PRESTON: -- about immigration. Why shouldn't the public see what you're proposing as another effort by large business to have a channel for cheap and malleable labor coming into the United States? How do you change that?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, there's a -- you're talking about two different kinds. Large businesses will employ the doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. It is small business that will employ the people who don't have a great command of the English language or maybe don't have formal education.

And in the end, if you want to take America out of its doldrums, the only solution is small business. Half the people in the country work in small businesses. If you think about it, automation is something that small businesses don't use.

Small business is very different, and why are they the solution? Small business is the solution because they have nontraditional hiring. They don't look at your grade point average and see where you went to school and check your transcript. They don't even know how to do that. They look at you, and they say, yeah, I think you'd be OK. (Laughter.)

They provide -- that's the process that a small business goes through. They don't have a big HR department. You're just talking about something different. They have flexible hours, so that people that have family responsibilities can work in small businesses. They provide on-the-job training, and people that are unemployed are at an age where they are not going back to school. We talk about it -- there's five people that went back to school, they're on CNN, everybody does a special on them, isn't it wonderful they're going back to school.

But all the studies show older people don't go back to school.

You have to provide on the job training if you're going to employ them. And that's exactly what small businesses do.

So -- you know, and small businesses don't use automation. If you think about -- we talk about innovation and green jobs, and it's great, and we do need those things. But that's not what creates jobs. As a matter of fact, a lot of innovation and automation reduces the demand for people. And you see that in this country today, where it's bottom-line growth in big businesses. They are finding ways to do more with less. That may be great for the stockholders and may be great for the economy way down the road, but it's not good for helping the unemployment situation today.

Whereas small businesses -- you know, they do things with your hands. There's still got to be somebody at the counter when you walk in the store or cooking or serving or making the bed or -- you know, or picking the crops in the fields. And small businesses can employ those kinds of people.

I said -- I was asked: What do you do about the big industrial cities in the heartland that have hollowed out over the last few decades?

And I got in trouble with the major of the city, who didn't like my suggestion. But I said what the federal government should do is create a visa for people. The deal would be you go to that city; you agree you won't take any federal, state or city help whatsoever, because that gets rid of people who are worried about the expense; and you agree to live there for seven years. And that's the only agreement. And at the end of seven years, if you're still living there, we will give you citizenship.

In the meantime, what are those people going to do? They will -- if they have to drive from Detroit to California in the morning, they would do it to work and come back. They will buy the houses, they'll fix them up by hand, they'll create the small businesses, they'll find ways to create businesses where you never thought of businesses before.

And the mayor of the particular city I happened to pick -- and I just picked a city -- (laughter) -- said: Oh, no, no. There's no -- that Bloomberg doesn't understand; there's not enough jobs here.

Yes, there's not enough jobs. And it's going to get worse next year and the year after unless you bring in a new group of people who are going to start businesses. And the governor of this particular state said, hey, you know, Bloomberg's right. And I gather -- I was told this morning -- now they're going to have a conference -- (laughter) -- to try to really see whether there is something there.

But my point is, the history shows -- all the studies show that the jobs that the undocumented tend to take are not jobs that Americans will take. They either don't want them or they don't have the skills for them. And we are using the undocumented, in many cases, for jobs with much less skills than they happen to have. You can have -- you know, you have a college graduate -- in New York City, the percentage of people that are college graduates has continued to go up over -- almost every year in the last 10 years. Why? Because of immigrants. And not just -- (inaudible) -- immigrants from overseas, immigrants from the rest of the country.

But it is those with college educations that have been flocking to New York City because it's a cultural, intellectual capital. And those that are undocumented can't use -- they may be a lawyer back home or an engineer or a doctor -- they don't -- can't use their skills. So maybe they are driving a cab, or maybe they're starting a small business. But they are coming because they want to work, and the jobs they get are not jobs that anybody else would have done.

Also, every study shows that if you, for example, have one farm worker, that low-priced help -- tough to make a living on what you make picking crops. But that one person tends to create -- I think the number is like three other jobs up the food chain: transportation and inspection and distribution of the products. And the same thing is true at the high end. One engineer -- again, the number there is estimates of something like five or six jobs down the chain because they create new businesses and start things.

So the trouble that you have with this is if you tell a lie often enough, people start believing it, particularly in the day of instant news, bloggers and a very struggling, bad economic situation for the press where they have to go with sensationalism.

So the Times would never do that, I know that, but --

MS. PRESTON: Right. (Laughter.)

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: But they don't take jobs is the bottom line, and we need them.

MS. PRESTON: This week we have a menu of options on the Hill. Bills have been introduced, both a mandatory bill that would make the E-Verify employer -- employee verification program mandatory nationwide, and also Congresswoman Lofgren introduced a bill that would do some of the things I think that you have talked about.

First of all, how do you view the mandatory E-Verify bill? And could that be the basis, do you think, of a compromise?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, remember, I went see the congresswoman this morning, and I had a long conversation with her.

E-Verify -- well, let me stop for a second. The only ways you're going to get control of our borders -- and remember, borders is a logical border, it's not a physical border -- more people overstay visas to be here illegally than come across a border. So -- but, if you want to think about the whole thing as a big border control security issue for the country, the only ways you're going to get control over our borders is if you reduce the number of people trying to get in. And the ways you do that is you enforce the laws that say you can't employ undocumented.

Course, the business owner says, but I can't enforce the law because I don't know how the -- that they showed me a social security card or a green card or even a passport -- it looked good to me; how would I know? And so that's where the E-Verify system comes from.

But if you just put in E-Verify, all of a sudden you're going to have 11 million people that can't make a living here, and the jobs that they take are going to go unfilled. It would be a disaster for the industries that employ those people. And remember, those industries desperately need them, and we need those industries. But you can't stand up and say, yes, I want to keep undocumented here, because I employ a bunch of undocumented.

So there's nobody making the case, even though the case is there. And you just have to say E-Verify -- which I think incidentally is a fraud unless it has a biometric component to it, because, you know, Michael Bloomberg -- I don't know how many Michael Bloombergs there are in the world, but if you call up and say Michael Bloomberg is illegal, there's 20 different Michael Bloombergs that can use the same name on the E-Verify list. You've got to have something where you fingerprint or something like that, really does say, no, it's you; it's Julia Preston, and it's -- and it's this Julia Preston. That's important.

So E-Verify has its place, particularly if you do the biometric part. But you have to do it in conjunction with -- it would get -- help you get control of your borders, but you also have to do something with the people that are there today. And remember, the 11 million undocumented are here because we wanted them. It's true they broke a law, technically, no argument about it. But why did they break the law? Because in 1986, Congress passed a bill the way they always pass legislation. They stood up to their -- you know, their more conservative constituents and said, I just passed this bill and we're not going to let undocumented come here. And then, of course, the businesses that were giving them some money to help their campaign said, hey, don't worry about it; no money for enforcement; it's going to -- (off mic).

And we just have the same problem we had then, except now it's 10 times the size. And if you don't do anything, it's going to be --

MS. PRESTON: But why shouldn't the -- why isn't the American public's -- right to be skeptical that the businesses that are part of your partnership want to do the same thing again?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Businesses -- the would be better off employing legal people, because they can't get them into this country. There's the 11 million. But in all fairness, it was -- that 11 million grew over a long period of time. And if the economy ever does improve -- and it's not going to improve unless we fix the immigration system -- at least I don't think it'll improve anywhere near as rapidly or as easily -- they've got to be able to get a supply of labor.

We've got to have people starting businesses. We've got to have the engineers that they need. We've got to have the seasonal workers that they need.

MS. PRESTON: The five points that you articulated -- is the -- these proposals that are on the Hill now -- from the Republican side, a mandatory E-Verify plan, from the Democratic side, STEM degrees. Is there -- do you see a legislative strategy there that you could somehow --

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: You know, I only saw about seven, I think -- one senator and seven congresspeople this morning, mostly Republicans, although Lofgren is a Democrat -- and I will say I walked away with a little more optimism than I had before.

What has to happen is the public has got to say, Pennsylvania Avenue -- both ends, both sides of the aisle -- you are not solving our unemployment problem. We're going back into -- the economy's going in the wrong direction. And we've got to get out there and make the case that this is something that they can do to fix it.

And the attractiveness of immigration reform, while I know it's controversial for a lot of people to take that kind of vote -- it doesn't cost anything. So you can have immigration reform and at the same time not violate if you're one of the people who've, you know, said read my lips, no new taxes. You can still stick with that, but you could have the immigration reform.

And it's got to come from the public. The public's got to sit there and demand it. And we've got to be out there telling the story, again and again and again.

MS. PRESTON: All right. Do I take it that you would favor an approach of trying these smaller pieces first in the near term rather than a comprehensive approach, or what's your view on that?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Yes. I think it would be great to have comprehensive immigration reform, but if you look at '06 and '07, it didn't work. And today the situation is even worse to get comprehensive immigration reform. In the interest of having everything, we have nothing.

And you first -- the compromise that it seems to me makes sense, for both sides of the aisle, is you address the economic issue, the things that I outlined which would help the economy. That's one side of the immigration -- that's really visa reform if you want to say it. And then for the other part which I would call family reunification, you say we'll do the Dream Act or a variation of the Dream Act, because it's a little bit easier for those who keep saying, look, these people broke the law and we should not reward anybody who breaks the law. Well -- and it's funny, they say that while they're texting driving through a red light on their way to -- (laughter).

OK. But it's hard to argue the young kids, particularly if the kid served in the Army and, you know, went to -- I mean, you can -- you can -- you can set some criteria with the Dream Act, but it's just -- OK, they were brought here. When we talk about breaking the law, if you're dragged in your mother's arms across a border and you were, you know, an infant, did you break the law? All right, technically, maybe. But (no ?).

So I think that that's the way you say, those who want comprehensive immigration reform, you're not going to get everything you want. We are going to get control of our borders because we're going to have a biometric E-Verify system so that employers won't employ people that are undocumented; and therefore, the demand for undocumented will go down dramatically. They won't be able to get jobs and they won't come here. And then it's easier to get control of your borders.

You have to do something for the 11 million; make them pay a fine, whatever, but something practical. We just -- they're here. I mean, there's a point at which you've got to recognize reality, that you're not going to solve the problem.

But even if you can't do that right now, at least do the immigration reform so we can get the people to start businesses in these cities and take the jobs that we need for farmers or they're going to -- farms are just moving south, outside of America.

If you can't pick your crops, you just can't have a farm here.

And for those who want comprehensive reform or the family reunification side, say the DREAM Act this time, and we'll come back and fight another day for something else. Because if we fight for everything, we have nothing, and the nothing scenario is really bad for this country given the economic situation.

MS. PRESTON: Perhaps the most powerful or one of the most powerful anti-immigration reform arguments in the country is articulated on a daily basis by FOX News. I'm wondering if you have had a discussion with your partner, Mr. Murdoch, about -- (laughter) -- changing the --

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: I knew I should have done something. (Laughter.)

Yeah, I think -- look. Two of the three big newspapers in New York City are -- the publishers are immigrants, one from Canada, one from Australia. I think Rupert really does believe -- and it's in News Corp's interest; they are an international company with a lot of people moving back and forth.

The talking heads -- I don't know that Rupert's going to go and say, don't say that. That's -- there's a market for very conservative -- nice ways to put it -- talking -- rational talking heads. There's less of a market, it would seem, for very rational talking heads on the left, but for reasons I can't quite understand. But NBC -- MSNBC just doesn't get the ratings that FOX does.

On the other hand, I think that a lot of these people have -- might have some second thoughts when they realize that, you know, Rupert Murdoch really is committed to that -- to this and News Corp. as a corporation is really committed to it.







More on This Topic


A Conversation with Michael Bloomberg

Speaker: Michael R. Bloomberg
Introductory Speaker: Richard N. Haass
Presider: Julia Preston

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg highlights the role of immigrants for America's economic growth and the need for Washington to put...

Transcript Speakers: Edward Alden, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Vivek Wadhwa
Introductory Speaker: Richard N. Haass
Presider: Matthew Winkler

Edward Alden, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Vivek Wadhwa discuss the benefits of immigration reform for the economic future of the United States....