Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp. (NWSA:US), predicted that a bill in the U.S. Senate that would allow many undocumented immigrants to become citizens in about 13 years has enough support in Congress to pass.
Murdoch, speaking yesterday at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, described the proposal as the most viable attempt to overhaul U.S. immigration law since the 1980s.
“I believe the Senate proposal will go through,” said Murdoch, whose company owns Fox News and the New York Post. “It’s not good enough, but it’s better than nothing.”
Republican opposition to a citizenship plan helped scuttle a 2007 effort to overhaul immigration policy. That opposition has lessened since the November election, in which President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Murdoch spoke on a panel with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who is part of a bipartisan group of senators behind the bill.
The proposed immigration law would allow people living in the U.S. illegally who arrived before Dec. 31, 2011 to become citizens after passing background checks, obtaining jobs and paying back taxes and penalties. The process would take an estimated 13 years, according to congressional aides.
Murdoch and Bennet said they favor an approach that would allow all illegal immigrants to gain citizenship in five years. The Senate bill, introduced earlier this month, would allow students who entered the country illegally and certain agricultural workers to become citizens in as few as five years.
Obama has called the Senate legislation “largely consistent” with his views. The Republican-controlled House plans to pursue a rewrite of U.S. immigration law through individual bills, rather than with a comprehensive piece of legislation as in the Senate.
Murdoch, Bennet and Villaraigosa characterized the Senate’s immigration bill as an economic imperative. The mayor, a Democrat whose two terms leading the second-largest U.S. city end June 30, said 44 percent of businesses in Los Angeles are founded by immigrants. That number would be “exponentially higher” if more of them were legal, Villaraigosa said.
The bill’s biggest challenge may be fears that the new citizens would vote for Democrats, endangering Republican prospects over the long term, said Vivek Wadhwa, research director at Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization.
Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) co-founder Steve Jobs and head of the Emerson Collective, a nonprofit in Palo Alto, California, that describes itself as an “advocate for fair and just policies on behalf of under-served students,” said many immigrants recognize that the House is controlled by Republicans, so the bill’s passage would depend on support from both parties.
“We have such an appetite for reform right now,” Jobs said.
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