New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg presented a united front Thursday on the important role of immigrants in their local economies.
The Democratic mayors held court in a spacious lounge at the Golden 1 Center, surrounded by developers, high-tech executives, elected leaders and heads of ethnic chambers of commerce.
“Part of what would give people cover and support (in the immigration debate),” de Blasio said, “is if we more systematically brought out the voices of those who are saying an affront on immigration is actually bad for our businesses.”
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De Blasio is on a three-city West Coast tour. He visited Seattle on Wednesday and heads to San Francisco on Friday.
In Sacramento on Thursday, de Blasio attended a private tasting of locally sourced food and drink, fundraised for his re-election campaign and toured K Street and the state Capitol with Steinberg before meeting with local business leaders at the arena.
Co-hosted by the Sacramento Kings and the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, the mayors’ conversation centered on what the business community can do to protect and support immigrants, both legal and illegal, under President Donald Trump’s administration.
De Blasio and Steinberg said rather than pushing the civil rights or moral angles of the immigration debate, business leaders need to be making more noise about the economic importance of immigrants as consumers and employees.
Pat Fong Kushida, head of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, told the mayors some of the chamber’s members felt they were attacked over their visa practices – accused of firing American citizens to give lower-paid foreign workers H-1B visas – the last time they spoke up about immigration.
De Blasio said mayors need to back up business leaders who are willing to speak up on contentious immigration issues.
Steinberg said the pressure from the business community would push more moderate Republicans to join in the call for immigration reform.
“Those on the other side of the aisle who believe in immigration reform have to feel that the business community has a stronger and more compelling voice than those on the far right who are scaring them,” Steinberg said.