PALO ALTO — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his platform as Stanford University’s commencement speaker on Sunday to lobby for an immigration reform plan that allows foreign students to remain in the United States after they graduate.
Standing before a packed Stanford Stadium on Sunday, Bloomberg noted that about 30 percent of the university’s 5,000 graduates had attended Stanford on student visas, but that many of them without a way to work legally here would return to their home countries to compete with American companies.
“We invite foreign students to study here, we subsidize the universities they attend with research funding and other aid, and then, after those students have mastered the material, we tell them to go somewhere else,” the mayor said during a brief speech that also touched on the value of risk-taking and civil rights. “It’s the most backward economic policy you could possibly come up with, and I’ve called it national suicide.”
Instead of letting such home-schooled talent get away, Bloomberg said that every international student who had studied science, technology, math or engineering “should have a green card stapled to his or her diploma so they can help our economy grow.” He added that U.S. residents who had been brought into the country illegally as children “should have the opportunity to apply for financial aid and go to college. They have done nothing wrong.”
Bloomberg urged the audience to contact their representatives and senators about the immigration bill now under consideration by Congress. Lawmakers from both parties’ voted last week to begin formal debate on the first immigration overhaul in a generation, a proposal that would give an estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally a long and difficult path to citizenship.
The mayor also discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s forthcoming decisions in two same-sex marriage cases, one challenging the constitutionality of a 1996 federal law that prevents legally married couples from accessing federal marriage benefits, the other a ruling that will determine if California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages lives or dies. The court’s rulings could come as soon as Monday.
“There is no doubt in my mind these two laws will soon be history,” he said. “Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time, and I believe it will become the law of all 50 states, if not in my lifetime, then in yours,” Bloomberg said, proudly remarking that same-sex couples have been able to wed in New York state since June 2011.