Politics

Bloomberg, Murdoch-Led Immigration Group Has Eyes on 2017

Partnership outlines economic effect of immigrant community

Wyoming Street in Hazleton, Pennsylvania., has attracted Latino-owned shops and restaurants. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly File Photo)

In its push to convince Congress to take up a comprehensive immigration overhaul in 2017, the advocacy group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NewsCorp chief executive Rupert Murdoch is betting on the old adage, “All politics is local.”  

The Partnership for a New American Economy, which Bloomberg, Murdoch and others established in 2010, published 51 reports Wednesday — one for each state plus the District of Columbia — outlining the local economic effect of the immigrant community. The goal is to persuade Congress that fixing an immigration system widely seen as dysfunctional is a crucial step toward a flourishing economy.  

“It’s local data and local stories that will push the needle on immigration reform in 2017,” John Feinblatt, the group’s chairman, told reporters on a press call Wednesday.  

For instance, the report on Ohio says immigrants earned $15.6 billion in personal income in 2014, and paid $4.1 billion in federal, state and local taxes. The same year, immigrant-led households in Iowa earned $4.1 billion and paid $1.16 billion in taxes.  

And in California, which boasts the largest immigrant population of any state, 784,584 self-employed immigrants generated $20.2 billion in business income and provided jobs to 1.46 million individuals in 2014. The study said 38 percent of the state’s entrepreneurs are immigrants.  

[ A Quick Look: Immigration Reform in Washington ]  

On Wednesday, Feinblatt was joined by representatives from the agriculture and business industry, including the U.S Chamber of Commerce and Western Growers, who said family farms and tech startups alike would benefit from comprehensive immigration overhaul.  

“The domestic and foreign workforce is shrinking,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “The workload is growing.”  

Duvall said farmers are hurt by constraints on the H-2A agricultural visa program. The seafood and tourism industries have aired similar grievances about the H-2B program, which allows 66,000 nonagricultural workers into the country each year. The technology industry has for years complained about caps on the H-1B “high-tech” visa program for graduates with science and engineering degrees.  

The group is also enrolling the help of faith leaders. Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said polling of evangelical Christians shows overwhelming opposition to calls to deport the millions of undocumented immigrants living in United States.  

“This is a spiritual issue,” said Suarez, who invoked a passage from the Book of Psalms that reads, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”  

The group’s renewed push indicates cautious optimism about whether Congress will have the political will to take up major immigration legislation in 2017. Other pro-immigration organizations, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us, are also positioning themselves to make major legislative pushes next year.  

Randel Johnson, the Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for labor and immigration issues, said the group is prepared to work with either presidential candidate: Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who wants to end deportation of noncriminal immigrants and introduce overhaul legislation in her first 100 days in office, or Donald Trump, the Republican nominee with a much harsher stance.  

“When the door opens, we’re prepared to walk through it,” Johnson said.

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