Mayor Advises Keep Out Illegal Immigrants, Help Those Already Here
In testimony before a congressional committee on immigration reform last Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined a policy calling for discouraging illegal entrants, but creating more lawful opportunities for legal entrants.
Expressing his opposition to the bill passed by the Republican-controlled House, the mayor said he did not believe that the American people would support the shortsighted approach to the issue taken by the House, which "would make felons of illegal immigrants."
His practical solution to this aspect of the problem would be: "Offer those already here the opportunity to earn permanent status and keep their families together."
In support of this position, Bloomberg noted: "For decades the federal government has tacitly welcomed [illegal immigrants] into the workforce, collecting their income and Social Security taxes, which about two-thirds of undocumented workers pay, and benefitted immeasurably from their contributions to our country.
"Now, instead of pointing fingers about the past, let's accept the present for what it is by bringing people out of the shadows and focus on the future by casting those shadows aside, permanently."
In essence, Bloomberg agreed with President George W. Bush and the United States Senate on giving illegal immigrants already here with a "path to citizenship" and cutting off further illegal entries.
On the latter point, the mayor disagreed on building a fence physically, but would attempt to do it by building a "virtual wall" and employing sensors and cameras for detection.
Congress, he said, "should lead from the front, not the back, and that means adopting a solution that is enforceable, sustainable and compassionate, and that enables the American economy to thrive in the 21st century. Perhaps now, more than ever before, it's time to vote for our future, and not pander to parochial fears."
However, this advice would seem to have been ignored by the House, which has already passed the Republican leadership's bill calling for deportation of all illegal aliens.
The billionaire businessman-turned mayor testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Philadelphia, one of several held by Congress around the country during a recess.
Bloomberg said we must encourage legal immigration, prepare immigrants for jobs and develop our economy to compete with other countries. Among those we should seek to attract to our shores, he said, are doctors, scientists, engineers and other professionally trained workers.
At another point, he said this country must "get real about the people who are now living in this country illegally, in many cases raising families and paying taxes."
Scoffing at the House Immigration proposal, he stated, "The idea of deporting these 11 or 12 million people"-the equivalent of the entire population of Pennsylvania-"is pure fantasy." It would be physically impossible, even if we wanted to do it, he said.
In fact, Bloomberg said, we must reduce illegal access to our borders "as a matter of urgent national security."
In urging the reduction of the incentive for immigrants to come here illegally, he said that as a business owner, he knows firsthand "the absurdity of our existing immigration regulations." There are no real checks by business owners on an immigrant's status, he said, in part because federal law does not permit employers to ask such questions. And, he said, phony Green Cards and fake Social Security cards flood the market.
He urged development of a federal database which would allow employers to verify status.
And to ensure that the job documentation presented by immigrants is incorruptible, a biometric employment card containing unique information-fingerprints or DNA, for example, should be created.
Every current job holder would be required to obtain such a card and every employer would have to check it against the federal database. This would provide the tools to enforce immigration laws and protect workers from exploitation, the mayor said.
The mayor said his administration's policy of dealing with immigrants, both legal and illegal, complies with all federal laws, but is not adaptable to deporting anyone. He said he was sure it could withstand federal scrutiny, which could lead to cutting immigration funds.
He responded vigorously to this, saying that too much politics in homeland security funding distribution was already hurting New York City.
"If Congress attempts to cut off all of our homeland security funding, not to mention Department of Justice funding for many other essential programs," he declared, "I promise you will have one heck of a battle on your hands. We are not going to let Congress cut and run from New York City-nor can our nation afford it."