News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch urged U.S. lawmakers to get behind an overhaul of immigration law that includes a way for undocumented workers to get legal status, saying such a plan would help the economy.
“America is desperately in need of improving our country’s human capital,” Murdoch told a House Judiciary subcommittee today in Washington. “We want to bring an end to the arbitrary immigration and visa quotas that make it impossible to fill the labor and skill needs of our country.”
Murdoch was joined by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of his partners in an effort by business and public officials to build momentum for the first broad rewrite of immigration laws since 1986. Democrats in Congress abandoned efforts to enact an overhaul this year, determining they couldn’t get enough support to overcome delaying tactics by Senate Republican opponents.
Murdoch and other advocates of a revamped immigration law ran into opposition from Republicans on the House panel. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, said the U.S. should secure its borders first. He said he worried that allowing more immigrants would harm lower-skilled workers in the U.S.
“Why would we want to put the interests of foreign workers ahead of the economic interests” of Americans, Smith said.
President Barack Obama is seeking an immigration plan what would include added security at the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and a path for some of the 11 million undocumented workers already in the U.S. to gain permanent legal residency. He also wants to see changes in policies that allow workers to enter the country legally to work for U.S. businesses.
Senate Democratic leaders in April outlined such a measure that emphasized the drive to secure the border, in an unsuccessful effort to get Republican support. Democrats have 59 votes in the Senate, one shy of the number needed to overcome Republican opposition.
Bloomberg said today the debate has become too bitter, and he urged lawmakers in both parties to work on a bipartisan solution that embraces the benefits of legal newcomers to the U.S. He and Murdoch have created a Partnership for a New American Economy to push for changes.
Bloomberg said U.S. cities like New York that have had the largest increase in immigrant workers in recent decades have also seen the fastest economic growth. Research shows that immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in benefits, and are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start new companies, he said.
‘Economy Has Changed’
“To keep America competitive in the global marketplace, we must recognize that our economy has changed,” Bloomberg said. “Our immigration policy needs to change with it.”
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
Lawmakers are leaving Washington today to campaign for elections that may put Republicans in charge of one or both of the congressional chambers, which would let the party reshape the immigration debate that Obama plans to make a top priority in 2011.
Most Republicans on the panel said boosting legal immigration would hurt American workers, and none at the hearing embraced a comprehensive approach to addressing the immigration issue.
House Democrats generally have supported Obama’s push. Representative Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, said a “broad swath” of Americans support such a plan. He urged lawmakers on the panel to “leave demagoguery at the door.”
Fox News Channel
Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, questioned how Murdoch could support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants while his company’s Fox News Channel highlights the views of commentators who she said advocate a get-tough approach to illegal immigrants.
“I don’t see you promoting in any way with all the power you have to do that,” Waters said.
Murdoch said “we do” reflect his personal views, including in the Wall Street Journal, which his company also owns.
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