New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the trip to Washington yesterday to meet with members of Congress and delivered a very strong speech at a Council on Foreign Relations symposium I organized on “The Future of U.S. Immigration Policy.”

Bloomberg’s message was one that all sides in the caustic immigration debate need to hear: that in the dire economic situation this country faces, the question is no longer what the United States can do for immigrants, it’s what immigrants can do for us.

In case anyone needed reminding about the economic mess the country is in, McKinsey last week released a frightening study that showed that only under the most optimistic scenario will unemployment fall below five percent in the next decade. More realistically, the jobless rate will remain near double digits for years.

The big reason for stubbornly high unemployment since the end of the Great Recession in 2009 is not the continued loss of existing jobs but the failure to generate new ones. The unmatched flexibility of the U.S. economy has long meant that millions of jobs, and thousands of businesses, disappear each year only to be replaced by new businesses and new jobs. But the engine of job creation has stalled. According to McKinsey, since 2007 there has been a 23 per cent decline in new business startups, at a cost of nearly 2 million jobs.

The jobs crisis is moving to the center of the immigration debate, where it belongs. House Judiciary chairman Lamar Smith’s solution is a comprehensive E-Verify bill introduced this week that he claims will “free up” millions of jobs by forcing out undocumented workers. While there are many good reasons to expand E-Verify, job creation is not one of them. Some of those jobs will go underground into the cash economy; others will just go unfilled (ask the farmers in Georgia, which has emulated Arizona’s tough workplace verification rules). Some companies will go out of business – American Apparel, the Los Angeles clothing maker that was forced to fire a quarter of its workforce after an ICE-led investigation in 2009 – is now on the verge of bankruptcy. The company employs 5,000 people in that city alone. And while some jobs will certainly open up for citizens or legal immigrants as a result of E-Verify, these are hardly the sorts of jobs that will drive a U.S. recovery.

Bloomberg’s vision is a very different one, and there’s lots of evidence to back him up, including a new study that his business coalition, the Partnership for a New American Economy, released yesterday. Encouraging skilled immigrants to come to the United States is one of the easiest ways available to jumpstart job creation.

He laid out a five-point agenda for harnessing immigration to spur U.S. economic revival:

• A fast track to a green card for immigrants who graduate from advanced programs in the sciences and engineering;
• Visas for immigrant entrepreneurs, as proposed in the Startup Visa Act sponsored by Senators Lugar and Kerry;
• More visas for high-skilled workers to encourage U.S. companies to expand here (and hire more Americans as well) rather than going abroad;
• Streamlined programs to allow hiring of immigrants in tourism and agriculture where labor shortages exist; and
• Making U.S. economic needs a greater priority than family reunification in setting immigration quotas.

The speech is rich in detail and worth a careful read. There is certainly no easy way to break the current stalemate over immigration policy, but it clearly won’t be broken unless Americans understand that immigration is part of the solution to our current economic woes, not part of the problem.

  • We Need Job

    One thing need to understand, the jobs are going abroad because of shortage of high-end skills. Look at Canada, China, India. Research and high end IT jobs are moving there. It is always better to keep the job here in USA with H1B rather than moving the job abroad. The logic always debated H1B bring down the salary. It’s true, but in the global world if somebody is doing the same job at 50% of the cost we do here. Global competetion will dent american workforce. It’s just my 2 cents.

    • Visa fraud destroys jobs

      The legislative and intended purpose of visas is to find employees that can’t perform the job here (e.g., a neurosurgeon of such extraordinary skill no US counterpart exists – that’s incredibly rare). Visas aren’t meant to undercut US wages – that’s illegal and goes against the purpose of the program’s purpose and intent. It’s VISA FRAUD, plain and simple, and every single US and foreign company that engages in it (e.g., in India and here – of which there are many, just ask IT grunt) breaks the law and will, one day, get what’s coming to them in court and will be indicted and imprisoned.

  • Voltaire would be ashamed

    The only comments on this site go against the author’s viewpoint supporting amnesty and Bloomberg’s agenda. Shockingly, they are flagged for review? Wow, intolerant of dissenting opinions doesn’t seem very intellectually honest, especially coming from a “think tank.” Read some Voltaire, it would do the intellectual discourse here some good.

    • Anonymous

      Editor’s note: After this piece was published, numerous comments of identical content were posted. These comments were posted by individuals with suspect e-mail addresses (meaning SPAM). While all perspectives are welcome on Security Debrief, any comments clearly part of a SPAM campaign will be reviewed and removed, as they were in this case.

  • Bloomberg’s wrong

    Someone who bought his last election for $100+ million has good advice for the rest of America? Really? Isn’t this guy laying off police officers, teachers, and other public servants in droves because there’s not enough money to keep them on? But more illegal immigrants is the solution? Wow, that’s fantastic logic. And of course 100% of those immigrants will never commit a crime, never be a burden on law enforcement, will educate themselves in homeschools without burdening strapped school districts, have unique and special skills that no one in America could possibly have? Work in law enforcement or in the schools for one day, then give me an answer.

     I wonder, does his Highness ever actually mingle with the common folk who have been displaced by illegal aliens at lower-end jobs, and displaced by H-1B visa abuses brought in from overseas by corporations that simply, shockingly, cannot find “qualified” Americans (despite 20%+ real unemployment with millions of Americans with PhDs, MAs, BSs, BA, MPPs, etc.). Surely those Americans simply wanted a living wage after spending years in college and grad schools that the immigrants now want to attend in droves because, despite the media lies, those schools are excellent and turned out very well-qualified Americans.

    But Bloomberg doesn’t mix with the “masses” unless it’s a photo op or time for an election. He even pretended to ride the subway before jumping into his well-guarded SUV. How’s sanctuary city NYC, or San Francisco, etc. working out? How are California’s finances with massive illegal influx? Not so good, right? But things are different for the chattering class, the CEOs in their boardrooms, the politicians and their sycophants in DC and NYC, and the rest of the crew who doesn’t care about real consequences and pain on street-level. Pathetic.