Rejecting Skilled Workers ‘National Suicide,’ Bloomberg Says

The U.S. needs to allow more visas to help the economy and should let highly skilled engineers who study in U.S. universities stay in the country, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today in Washington.

Turning away skilled workers is “national suicide,” Bloomberg said in remarks before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. will be unable to compete if it doesn’t attract talent globally, he said.

The Chamber called the session to discuss how U.S. immigration laws should be changed to make the U.S. more competitive. Democrats and Republicans need to find ways to work together on immigration, Bloomberg said.

“The American dream cannot survive if we tell the dreamers to go elsewhere,” he said.

Bloomberg has pushed for easing U.S. visa and citizenship requirements for foreign students and entrepreneurs, and he favors giving more than 10 million illegal immigrants a chance to become lawful residents.

Last year, he joined mayors and business leaders, including News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch and Microsoft Corp. CEO Steven Ballmer to create the Partnership for a New American Economy. The group seeks “to raise awareness of the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform,” according to its website.

The immigration debate has been pushed to the background since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 and said an overhaul was a priority.

Overcoming ‘Misinformation’

“We need to overcome misinformation,” Tom Donohue, the president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber, the largest U.S. business lobby, said before Bloomberg’s remarks.

While immigration can boost economic growth, many Americans are concerned that jobs will be taken from U.S. citizens, he said. The U.S. needs to ensure that doctors and engineers who are educated in the U.S. stay to foster innovation, he said.

With efforts to reach agreement on broader immigration changes stalled, Obama signed a $600 million border-security law last year. It provided funding to hire 1,500 Border Patrol, Customs and other agents along the border with Mexico.

Lawmakers fell short in December 2010 in efforts to provide legal status for certain younger immigrants.

The legislation known as the Dream Act would let people who were brought to the U.S. illegally before age 16 and remained for at least five years gain legal residency after going to college or serving in the military for at least two years.

Mayor Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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