Murdoch, Bloomberg make case for immigration reform
As originally appearing in Worcester Telegram


By Morgan True

BOSTON —  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch urged whoever wins the November presidential election to reform the immigration system in this country, to address problems that they said are stifling economic growth.

The two made their case at a forum in downtown Boston today. They serve as co-chairmen of the Partnership for a New American Economy, which brings together mayors and business leaders from across the country with a focus on immigration reform. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a member of the partnership, spoke as well.

Mr. Bloomberg spent the morning in Chicago at a similar event with former White House Chief of Staff William Daley.

Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Bloomberg said that they support a path to citizenship or residency for people in the country illegally. Mr. Bloomberg said the level of illegal border crossings is exaggerated in the public debate, and it would be far easier to fly to the U.S. and overstay one’s travel visa.

He added, “People don’t come here to put their feet up and collect welfare. They come here to work.”

Mr. Murdoch said he is concerned about a shortage of skilled workers in the science and engineering fields. He said of foreign students studying in America that he believes, “When they get a graduation certificate, if it’s in a certain field, it should come with a green card stapled to it.”

Mr. Bloomberg said that politically, “The problem is that our country is so polarized that neither Republicans or Democrats can be seen working together.”

The forum’s moderator, Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal, asked what could be done to counter the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has made advocating reform politically untenable, especially while unemployment is still high.

In response, Mr. Bloomberg said, “It takes brilliant and gutsy leaders to make investments when times are tough. This president, or whoever is elected next, has to bring Congress along on this issue.”

The forum also served to highlight the release of “Open for Business,” written by economist Robert W. Fairlie, which shows that one in every 10 people employed at a private company in America is working for an immigrant-owned firm.

Immigrants are also twice as likely as native-born American’s to start a new business. Despite being only 12.9 percent of the population, in 2011 immigrants started one of every four new businesses. This is particularly important because businesses less than 5 years old are responsible for all net job creation in the U.S. over the past three decades, according to the report.

Since 1996, the number of businesses started by U.S.-born entrepreneurs has shrunk 10 percent, while immigrant start-ups have increased by 50 percent.

The report was commissioned by the Partnership for a New American Economy, which has more than 450 members including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Disney CEO Bob Igor, as well as mayors representing more than 35 million people and business leaders whose companies generate more than $1.4 trillion in annual sales, according to the group’s website.

Kevin O’Sullivan, chief executive officer of the Worcester-based Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, is a member of the organization, but was not able to attend the forum. Speaking on the phone this afternoon, he said immigrants play an important role in his business as well as the life sciences industry in Central Massachusetts. He added that he supports a more direct path to citizenship as part of immigration reform.

A few years ago, he said, several computer science students from India and China were writing code for his firm. When their student visas expired they had no choice but to return to their native countries.

“It gives me great pains that we would attract these bright minds and then send them home,” he said.

He added that he sees immigrants contributing to the economy in Central Massachusetts at every level, not just in the sciences and related startups, but also in landscaping, laundromats and other small businesses.

Mr. O’Sullivan said his grandparents were Irish immigrants, and his grandfather started a business in Boston. He added that under current immigration law, he’s not sure his grandfather would have had that opportunity, and he questions whether he himself would be in his current position as CEO of a biotech-related firm.

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