Bloomberg still wants a New York ‘Dream Act,’ and more immigration reform than Washington is up for

Bloomberg at today's press conference. (Dan Rosenblum)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg today reiterated his support for a state-level Dream Act, a law that would make tuition aid available to undocumented immigrants.

He also urged national immigration reform, repeating a previous claim that to do otherwise would be gravely damaging to the American economy.

“We are committing national suicide and there’s absolutely no reason for it,” Bloomberg said.

He made his remarks during a press conference to tout the success of a city-funded business incubator.

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“Well at a very minimum there’s two things you should do,” Bloomberg said, responding to a question about how immigration could fuel incubators and entrepreneurs from other countries. “One is the Dream Act, because we’ve got an issue of people who are here. It’s very contentious as to people who came here undocumented and they break the law. The answer is yes they did, but having said that, they broke the law with the complicity of the government."

He said the government "didn't enforce it so they could say to both sides, look you got what you want."

“But the truth of the matter is, for young people that were brought here it’s hard to argue they broke the law in any meaningful sense,” he continued. “They are part of our society and want to be productive and a lot of them serve in the military and they do lots of things.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to take a position on the Dream Act, and with the state budget due on April 1, its immediate fate isn't clear.

On the topic of making it easier for immigants to come to America to work, Bloomberg also said, "At a very minimum we should open up the borders to entrepreneurs and people that either get degrees here or have degrees overseas, and want to bring businesses here, scientists and all the stem things that really create jobs. Those kinds of immigrants create jobs.”

He also pitched a federal-level seasonal-workers policy that resembles the bracero program the country used to attract seasonal farm workers starting in the 1940s.)

“Also, we have to open the borders to seasonal workers that work on the farms," the mayor said. "This argument that Americans are going to go those jobs is just ridiculous. They won’t. I don’t know how many times we have to do that experiment. They will not. If you want the crops picked, you have to have a workforce that will do that, and why hurt ourselves by not letting people who want to come into this country work?

“Most of them pay taxes. The dirty little secret is that most of the undocumented, I think the numbers are something like 75 percent actually pay taxes because their employer withholds and there’s no place to send the refund. They also tend not to have criminal records because they’re worried about [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and they tend not to use the hospitals, because they’re young, they tend not to use the schools because most of them come by themselves leaving their families home and send remittances.”

The mayor said he personally would like to see the country go farther in liberalizing immigration policy than opening the borders to seasonal workers and immigrants with special skills or educational qualifications, but that he hoped measures like those could at least serve as a starting point for both parties.

“Personally I would go further than that on both sides, but I think that’s probably more politically doable today,” he said. “Both of things, you do it as a package, and I think the White House and both sides of the aisle should support exactly that.”