Bloomberg and Murdoch Call for Visa Reform

The Financial Times reported that Michael Bloomberg, New York City mayor, joined with Rupert Murdoch and other business leaders on Thursday in calling for the Obama administration to overhaul US immigration policy and shift the discussion away from illegal immigrants and towards business.

“Immigrants create jobs and businesses, but businesses cannot find the people they need as getting a visa is so difficult. The debate always seems to be about undocumented individuals. The US president needs to promote business and fix the immigration issue. He has to stand up to Congress and say we are not going to take it any more,” Mr Bloomberg said at a panel discussion on immigration and job growth in New York.

Mr Obama’s administration is pushing for job creation while maintaining an immigration policy that critics claim has made it difficult for foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers to get a visa in the US. Debate has mainly been centred on the Mr Obama’s “tough on enforcement” agenda that has seen the deportation of nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants in the past year.

The US government estimates that there are 3m unfilled jobs in the country because of skills shortages, particularly in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Many businesses are frustrated with the country’s immigration policy, which they feel hampers their ability to compete and grow as they are in the short term unable to fill these jobs with foreign-born workers.

“Modernising our immigration system is a cost-free way to create jobs at a time when real job creation solutions are few and far in between,” Mr Bloomberg said.

“Our competitors around the world are aggressively recruiting the thousands of entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, investors and other job creators who want to come here. If we want to put Americans back to work, we need to embrace an immigration stimulus,” he added.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, said the US was still “the greatest country in the world and it is by no accident people want to come here. We don’t need economic incentives like the UK or Canada”.
Lenny Mendonca, a director at McKinsey & Co, said immigration was key to job creation and increasing levels of business start-ups that are at currently very low levels.

Of the one million permanent residents welcomed into the US each year, only about 7 per cent are admitted for economic reasons – far less than any other developed nation in the world, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy and Partnership for New York City.

Cristobal Conde, the former president and chief executive officer of Sungard, the software and technology services company, said the business could not fill 4,000 job slots out of a total of 26,000.

“These are highly specialised jobs, but there are not enough people to fill them. Foreign graduates with a technology degree from the US must have a green card stapled to their diploma. Right now the country is educating people and letting them create jobs elsewhere,” Mr Conde said.

Bob Greifeld, chief executive officer of the NASDAQ stock exchange, echoed this statement and said a regulatory overhaul was imperative.

“Between 1995 and 2006, 25 per cent of the technology companies that were founded across the country were done so by immigrants. This increases to 50 per cent in Silicon Valley. These are the companies that are creating jobs,” said Mr Greifeld.

“While there is a greater demand for immigrants and skilled workers in these industries, we are faced with an over 9 per cent unemployment rate. The problem is there is a disconnect here making it difficult for Congress to realise.”

Recently, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer for Facebook, said US education and immigration policies were to blame for the fierce battle Silicon Valley technology companies were fighting over engineers.

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