NYT: Mayor Assails Bill in Congress on Immigration
May 29, 2007
Mayor Assails Bill in Congress on Immigration
By ANTHONY RAMIREZ
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in unusually pointed and broad language,
criticized Congress yesterday for parts of a comprehensive immigration
bill now being debated in the Senate.
Speaking after a Memorial Day parade in Laurelton, Queens, which has a
thriving Caribbean community, Mr. Bloomberg said in response to a
reporter's question, "Shame on Congress, who can't get together" on
the immigration issue.
The Senate bill has come under partisan attack even before the House
of Representatives can propose its version.
Lawmakers "should all look back on their history," said Mr. Bloomberg,
a small American flag draped on his lectern as he spoke to reporters,
"and realize that if we had had the laws that they are proposing in
many cases, they wouldn't be here because their parents or
grandparents would not have been here."
The mayor spoke near what is known as Veterans Memorial Triangle, a
patch of green maintained at 225th Street, 143rd Avenue and North
Conduit Avenue by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 5298.
The teenage musicians of the Elite Marching Band of St. Albans,
Queens, performed an earnest rendition of the national anthem. Cub
Scouts fiddled with their kerchiefs during the grown-ups' speeches.
Toddlers covered their ears and cried during a four-gun salute.
Mr. Bloomberg was especially critical of the guest-worker provision of
the Senate bill, strongly supported by many in his own Republican
Party. Immigrants would enter the country for three stints of two
years each, going home for one year between each stint and returning
home permanently after the third.
"The guest-worker program is a joke," he said. "Nobody's going to go
home for a year and come back. Nobody could ever enforce that. Nobody
in their right mind would ever try to do it."
He reiterated his praise for the bill's rejection of mass deportations
of the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. About
400,000 undocumented immigrants are thought to be in New York City.
"We don't have an army big enough to deport them," Mr. Bloomberg said.
"It would destroy the economy if you deported them. They are here,
yes, against the law, but they're here with the complicity of the U.S.
government. The U.S. government deliberately looked away since 1986,
the last time we had immigration reform."
He praised the bill's citizenship provisions as a promising start.
"Having something that gives them permanent status and some road to
citizenship is a big step forward," Mr. Bloomberg said. "You don't
want that road to be so impossible that they can't do it.
"On the other hand," he continued, "you don't want to also make that
road something that doesn't include learning to speak English,
learning the culture of this country, the laws of this country and the
history of this country."
Not all the policy questions came from reporters. Adrienne Gordon, 14,
an eighth grader at Tri-Community Junior High School 231, said she had
three questions for the mayor.
"How come," she said quietly, "teachers these days in school, they
don't base their grades that they give the students on what they do in
class? They base the grades on if they like the student or not?"
The mayor said: "I can't promise that every one of our 80,000 teachers
does it the right way. But I think that most of them base it on what
you do in the classroom."
Then, Adrienne asked what the mayor was doing to reduce class size. He
acknowledged that even with the largest school construction budget in
municipal history, the city had been able to reduce class size by only
a small percentage. "But what the teacher does in front of the
classroom is more important than class size," he said.
The third question? In a voice that could barely be heard, Adrienne
asked, "I was wondering if you could take a picture with us?"