- Associated Press - Thursday, June 24, 2010

NEW YORK | Chief executives of several major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Disney and News Corp., on Thursday joined New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to form a coalition advocating for immigration reform - including a path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The group includes several other big-city mayors and calls itself the Partnership for a New American Economy. Amid signs an immigration overhaul bill faces a steep climb in Congress, the group seeks to reframe immigration reform as the solution to repairing and stimulating the economy.

Mr. Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp., appeared together Thursday on Fox News network to discuss the effort.

“We’re just going to keep the pressure on the congressmen,” Mr. Murdoch said. “I think we can show to the public the benefits of having migrants and the jobs that go with them.”

The business executives 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.

The group said it intends to make its point to policymakers by “publishing studies, conducting polls, convening forums and sponsoring public education campaigns.”

The tactics are similar to those used by Mr. Bloomberg’s coalition of mayors who support gun control.

Mr. 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.

The group’s main immigration goals are to secure the borders, develop a simple 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. work force 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 effort marks Mr. 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 abandoned the idea.

He denied Thursday that the immigration push was part of a new national campaign, saying he is not running for president.

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