ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
The head of News Corp, which owns Fox News, told a House panel today that illegal immigrants should be given a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Rupert Murdoch headlined the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing today and appeared with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the role of immigration in strengthening America’s economy.
Murdoch's pro-immigration reform stance was challenged by one Democrat because it runs counter to the opinions most often expressed by commentators on Fox News.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, went after the Fox News owner for not utilizing his vast power over his media outlets like Fox News Channel to encourage immigration reform.
“Why are you here, with a basically decent proposal, talking about the advantage of immigrants to our economy, but I don't see that being promoted on Fox?” Waters asked. “I'm oftentimes stunned by what I hear on Fox, particularly when you have hosts talking about anchor babies and all of that. Explain to me, what's the difference in your being here and what you do not do with your media network?”
“We are home to all views on Fox. If you wish to come and state these views, we'd love to have you on Fox News,” Murdoch answered. “We don't censor that or take any particular line at all. We are not anti-immigrant on Fox News.”
Murdoch's argument in favor of a pathway to citizenship also frustrated some Republicans at the hearing and led to a testy exchange with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
"It is nonsense to talk of expelling 12 million people. Not only is it impractical, it is cost prohibitive… there are better ways to spend our money," said Murdoch.
His comment drew a pointed rebuke from King.
"Why should Americans accept a promise again that we should enforce immigration laws in exchange for a path to citizenship to people that – if i remember your language – for illegals who are responsible and law abiding – ….?" King asked.
"With respect, you don't have to accept any promises. You're the people who make the laws in this country. you're the people who have to make sure they're enforced. It's not up to me as a private citizen."
King, said that while some experts point out positive contributions that illegal immigrants make to the economy, there's also a cost to sustaining citizens.
“Whatever the analysis of the economics, we have also the rule of law that to me is priceless. And so I will stand on the rule of law,” King said. “I'm certainly not going to sacrifice the rule of law for an economic interest because I think that is more important to this country.”
Texan Republican Rep. Lamar Smith said that while the country is a better place because it attracts skilled immigrants that contribute to America’s economic prosperity, there is a right way and a wrong way to come into the United States. Illegal immigrants, Smith said, depress wages and take jobs away from American citizens and immigrants that enter the country legally.
“Legal immigrants play by the rules, wait their turn and are invited. Others cut in front of the line, break our laws and enter illegally,” Smith said. “Some people say that we need to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. But citizenship is the greatest honor our country can bestow. It shouldn't be sold to lawbreakers for the price of a fine.”
Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive officer at News Corporation, is himself an immigrant from Australia. He became a U.S. citizen in 1985 to satisfy law that mandates only citizens may own American television stations.
“As an immigrant, I chose to live in America, because it's one of the freest and most vibrant nations in the world. And as an immigrant, I feel an obligation to speak up for immigration that will keep America the most economically robust, creative and freedom-loving nation in the world,” Murdoch said. “America's future prosperity and security depends on getting our immigration policy right and doing it quickly.”
Bloomberg agreed, telling the committee that immigration reform needs to become a top national priority, and the debate should focus on economics, not emotion.
“Our system of immigration, I think it's fair to say, is broken. I think it's undermining our economy. It is slowing our recovery, and it really is hurting millions of Americans,” Bloomberg said. “History shows that every immigrant generation in the United States has fueled the economic engine that makes the United States the strongest economy in the world.”
The two mega-businessmen, who combine to have more than 75,000 employees at their businesses, appeared before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. That's the same committee which heard controversial satirical testimony last week from comedian Stephen Colbert, also on the issue of immigration. The New York business men today told the panel that deporting the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States is “impossible” and pushed for lawmakers to make it easier for skilled immigrants to get visas to work in the country.
Bloomberg said immigration is a problem driven largely by supply and demand, and criticized both Republicans and Democrats for failing to act while the parties have rotated control of the Congress and White House.
“This is all about leadership. We need immigrants. That's the future of this country. And whether the public understands that or not, it's Congress' job to lead and to explain to them why our — we're going to become a second-rate power in this world unless we fix our public education system and fix Immigration,” Bloomberg said. If Congress does not act soon to reform immigration, Bloomberg told the panel “there is a great danger that [the United States] will lose the reputation as the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Bloomberg and Murdoch are both members of the Partnership for a New American Economy, which aims to influence public opinion and policymakers toward comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legal status for undocumented workers.
The chairwoman of the immigration subcommittee, Zoe Lofgren, D-California, said that immigrants bring not only additional income to the U.S. economy, they also own businesses that create new jobs.
“Often lost among the passionate debate on immigration are the facts on immigrant entrepreneurs that generate billions of dollars for the U.S. economy and thousands of new American jobs. Immigrants are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business than non-immigrants,” Lofgren said.
* This item has been updated since it was first posted.