Inching Toward Reform

A new immigration-reform alliance is making promising strides in uniting business leaders and local politicians around a controversial issue.

Protesters demanding immigration reform march in Washington, D.C. Arasmus Photo via Flickr

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Last month New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg announced the formation of the Partnership for a New American Economy, an immigration-reform alliance between business leaders and local politicians. Their agenda is progressive but hardly groundbreaking. They propose allowing permanent residents easier paths to citizenship, not deporting foreign students immediately after graduation and offering English and civics classes to newcomers. And of course, they include the usual, conciliatory measures, like cracking down on illegal border crossing and on employers who hire undocumented workers, to prove they’re not pushing anything too radical.

What is noteworthy about this coalition, though, is how it’s framing its proposed reforms. Its name makes no mention of immigration; in fact, it consciously plays up nativist sentiments. The Partnership for a New American Economy sounds more like a libertarian think-tank than a progressive, immigration-reform group.

The name must have fooled others as well because some of the private-sector partners seem just as unlikely. The interests of coalition members like the Tishman Speyer construction company and Marriott International, both of whose industries employ large percentage of immigrants, seem natural. But when media mogul Rupert Murdoch along with the CEOs of American Express, Walt Disney Co. and the New York Mets sign on, I start getting suspicious.

And excited. If Bloomberg could convince these mega-corporations that a more inclusive immigration policy was good for economic development, might Washington buy it too? And if he could manage to leverage their support along with support from the mayors of some of US’s most populous cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio (not to mention Bloomberg’s own New York), might we actually see change? Only time will tell. But what is clear, the Partnership for a New American Economy has gathered a coalition as diverse as the US itself in favor of reform, and with the economy still weighing heavily on every politician’s mind (and approval rating), if anything has a chance of swaying politicians, the Partnership’s innovative new approach is immigration reform’s best bet.

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Tags: new york cityphiladelphialos angelesimmigrationphoenix

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