Chief executives of several major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Disney and News Corp., are joining Mayor Michael Bloomberg to form a coalition advocating for immigration reform — including a path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants now in the United States.
The group includes several other big-city mayors and calls itself the Partnership for a New American Economy. It seeks to reframe immigration reform as the solution to repairing and stimulating the economy.
The CEOs said Thursday in statements that their companies — and the nation — depend on immigrants.
"It's our great strength as a nation, and it's also critical for continued economic growth," Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. "To remain competitive in the 21st century, we need effective immigration reform that invites people to contribute to our shared success by building their own American dream."
The group says it intends to make its point to policymakers by "publishing studies, conducting polls, convening forums and paying for public education campaigns."
The tactics are similar to those used by Bloomberg's coalition of mayors who support gun control.
Bloomberg has for years criticized the federal government for its immigration laws, proposing in 2006 a plan that would have established a DNA or fingerprint database to track and verify all legal U.S. workers.
The billionaire mayor, a former CEO of the financial information company Bloomberg LP, also said at the time that all 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States should be given the opportunity for citizenship, saying that deporting them is impossible and would devastate the economy.
Lawmakers who wanted to deport all illegal immigrants were "living in a fantasy world," he said.
He has recently taken up the fight again, declaring this week that U.S. immigration policy "is national suicide."
"I can't think of any ways to destroy this country quite as direct and impactful as our immigration policy," he said Wednesday. "We educate the best and the brightest, and then we don't give them a green card."
The group's main immigration goals are to secure the borders, develop an easy system for employers to verify work eligibility, hold companies accountable for breaking the laws and improve the use of technology to prevent illegal immigration.
The group also wants more opportunities for immigrants to join the U.S. workforce and a path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants.
Bloomberg spokesman Jason Post said no money has been spent on the effort yet, and he could not say whether the group will be a standard nonprofit, a political action committee or a group known as a 501(c)4 nonprofit, which can operate outside the more strict limits governing political action committees.
The business leaders in the coalition employ more than 650,000 people and make more than $220 billion in annual sales, combined.
Among the members is Australian-born Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp.
"As an immigrant myself, I believe that this country can and must enact new immigration policies that fulfill our employment needs, provide a careful pathway to legal status for undocumented residents and end illegal immigration," Murdoch said in a statement.
The effort marks Bloomberg's return to national issues after he spent 2009 campaigning for a third term, focusing mostly on New York City's municipal concerns.
The Republican-turned-independent spent about two years testing the waters for an independent 2008 presidential run, but ultimately he gave up the idea.
By recruiting business leaders and mayors into a national-issue coalition, he is highlighting both of his backgrounds in running a city and running a business, which could be seen as an early move to dust off his presidential aspirations.