New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner waded into the immigration debate Monday, giving a full-throated endorsement of the immigration reform bill being debated in the Senate.
He particularly urged tech industry insiders not to focus narrowly on the sector’s interests, such as the H-1B skilled worker visa program, and instead to seek the broad benefits of comprehensive reform.
“We need an education system and an immigration system that keeps up with the times,” Weiner said Monday night at a mayoral forum in Queens that focused on tech policy in the city.
Weiner was answering a question about his ideas to fix problems filling high-skilled tech jobs in New York. But he said that the initiative for reform needs to come from Washington.
“There’s only so much we can do locally,” Weiner said. “When I served in Congress, I was on the immigration subcommittee, there was an enormous amount of conversation about how it is that we’ve become an unwelcoming country.
“After Sept. 11, , the pendulum swung so far that it became virtually impossible for even talented people who wanted to bring value to our country to come here.”
The immigration bill being debated in the Senate makes it easier for companies to import workers in fields like science, engineering, and technology, and increases the number of H-1B visas companies can offer to these high-skilled workers.
Weiner said it was a “mistake” to only focus on benefits for tech companies.
“Too often — this is a mistake the tech industry made — they said, ‘Just fix the H1 problem, and we’ll get to the other stuff later.’ No. We should be in this together. We should all jump together. If we have a broken immigration system, we should try to fix it all at once.
“Finally, Congress is doing that. And I hope that our senator, Chuck Schumer, who’s taking a lead on it, is successful.”
Schumer’s office didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry on Weiner’s comments. Thus far, Schumer has avoided commenting on the mayoral race.
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