NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended a meeting on immigration reform at the White House on Tuesday last week, along with NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. President Barack Obama also invited mayors and police chiefs from San Antonio and Los Angeles, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, among others.
The topics were broad—how to strengthen the borders, how to work with Mexico—and did not focus on any concrete legislation. Bloomberg discussed his views on the matter Friday morning in his weekly radio address with John Gambling of WOR-AM (710).
“We're not going to deport 11 million people. We're going to have to find some ways to make them productive, because they're [already] here,” said Bloomberg of the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
The mayor suggested linking fingerprints to social security numbers, so that an employer could electronically verify an applicant's immigration status. He says this would discourage new waves of illegal immigrants from coming, as jobs would not be so readily available.
Bloomberg maintained that the border should be strengthened, but said that controlled immigration is necessary for economic and cultural growth.
“If you want to keep the economy growing in this country, we have to get two groups of people in across the border,” said the mayor. “We need people who will work in businesses like agriculture, seasonal businesses. … Then at the other end, we need the engineers, the scientists, the doctors, [and] entrepreneurs who will create the industries of tomorrow.”
While farming jobs do not pay much, farms will leave the country if we don't have a seasonal migration of workers to harvest, he noted.
A hot topic in the immigrant community is an initiative called Secure Communities, which is set to spread nationwide in 2013. Under Secure Communities, criminals living in the country illegally would be identified through greater collaboration between local police departments and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Immigrants worry that minor offenders could be deported and that some legal immigrants may also get caught up in the net. They are also concerned that victims may be afraid to report crimes to the police. A visa for victims of crime exists to ease this fear, but immigrant advocates say it is a matter of perception and fear could prevail where knowledge about this visa does not reach.
The mayor told Gambling on Friday that some people say the illegal immigrants have been treated unfairly. “I have my own opinions about that,” Bloomberg said, without elaborating further. He noted that the government helped these immigrants break the law by not funding border control.
Some immigrant groups were also represented at the meeting in Washington. Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told online publication VivirLatino , “If the president genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the Secure Communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.”