News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to Boston Tuesday to hail immigrants’ contributions to our economic vitality. Touting the findings of a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the two cited the shortage of skilled workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, the fact that only four percent of U.S. graduate students are skilled in those areas (compared to 31 percent of China’s), and that our failure to allow foreign students to stay after graduating leads to damaging brain drain. Both advocated some pathway to citizenship for undocument children of illegals, but neither spoke to the desirability of allowing young illegals brought here as children to pay in-state rather than out-of-state tuition at public universities. Moderator Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal, a Murdoch employee, failed to push them on the issue at the event sponsored by the New England Council.
Both Murdoch and Bloomberg see immigrants as self-selecting, ambitious and entrepreneurial, a plus for the economy. Shockingly, Murdoch says that native-born individuals aren’t as successful entrepreneurs because they’ve gone soft with subsidies (“we’ve made it too easy for them to go to college.”) Both scoff at the idea of subsidizing immigrants in any way. One Bloomberg idea for the federal government: assign eager would-be immigrants to one of our older depressed industrial cities (e.g. Detroit), get them to agree not to seek any government benefits, to obey the law, and lead productive lives. Assuming they’d start businesses and rehab abandoned houses, under those terms, he’d grant them full citizenship if they’re still there after seven years.
Both credited President Obama’s executive order (which went into effect yesterday) not to go after illegals under 30 years old as “brilliant” political strategy, though Bloomberg noted Obama has actually deported more individuals than the previous five administrations. Both criticized Romney for not pushing immigration reform, which, Murdoch said, “wouldn’t take a lot of political courage for a Republican candidate” because Republican critics on the right aren’t going to vote for Obama anyway. Bloomberg agreed “there’s no down side for Romney.”
Bloomberg scoffed at the political fixation and dollars spent on controlling the Mexican border. “If you want to come to America illegally, don’t waste your time coming across the border and going into the desert. It’s dangerous. Just get on an airplane. Fly here and overstay your visa. They don’t track.” He got an uneasy laugh and reminded his audience that the problem of undocumented workers has been less in our tough economy.
Neither held out much hope for action on immigration in the current political climate but expressed hope we’d see it within two years.
“It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue,” said Boston Mayor Tom Menino in introducing the two. He should know. Immigrants, he said, have “helped to make Boston, reinventing it again and again.” Today, 8800 own businesses, employing 18,000 people and generating more than $1 billion in taxes. Walking the streets of Boston, you can hear some 140 languages. Boston, said Menino, is concerned not about where people come from but where they can go.
Too bad the majority of our political leaders don’t see it that way!