WASHINGTON — They weren't as funny as television Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, but media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg made a similar appeal to Congress: Do something about immigration.
Murdoch, the founder of News Corp., urged lawmakers during a hearing Thursday to match attempts to secure the border with efforts to ensure that employers can't hire people illegally.
For his part, Bloomberg, the mayor of New York as well as the founder of the financial news and information service bearing his name, told lawmakers that they should show some leadership on the issue.
"We need immigrants," Bloomberg said. "That's the future of this country and whether the public understands that or not it's Congress' job to lead."
The pair made their pleas before the same House immigration subcommittee that heard tongue-in-cheek testimony on the plight of farmworkers from the "Colbert Report" star last Friday. However, Murdoch and Bloomberg did not pack the hearing room as Colbert did for his appearance.
"I'm not a fan of the government doing anything," Colbert told lawmakers, "but I've got to ask, 'Why isn't the government doing anything?'"
Murdoch and Bloomberg lead a coalition of businesses and mayors to push for immigration reform. The group supports providing a path to legal status for those in the U.S. illegally. Murdoch himself was born in Australia and, while expanding his interests in U.S. media, became an American citizen in 1985. Citizenship allowed him to own U.S. television stations.
"As an immigrant, I chose to live in America because it is one of the freest and most vibrant nations in the world. And as an immigrant, I feel an obligation to speak up for immigration policies that will keep America the most economically robust, creative and freedom-loving nation in the world," he said.
The illegal immigrant population has tripled in the U.S., even as the government has increased enforcement spending almost every year since 1992, Murdoch said. The wave of immigrants only started to crest when the country hit a recession, he said.
Murdoch and Bloomberg said they believe Congress needs to help employers discern between workers authorized to work in the U.S and those who are not. The Obama administration has been auditing employers to find those hiring people illegally.
Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat, told Murdoch she thought his support for immigration reform did not match coverage of the immigration issue by Fox News, which is a large part of his News Corp. empire. She said his testimony was contradictory to Fox News "talking about anchor babies." The term, considered derogatory by some, is a reference to children born to at least one illegal immigrant parent.
"Why don't you use your power to help us to promote what you are talking about?" Waters asked.
"I would say that we do," Murdoch said. "We certainly employ a lot of immigrants at Fox ... and we do not take any consistent anti-immigrant line."
Murdoch said he would have no trouble supporting his hearing testimony on Fox News, "nor would a great number of the commentators on Fox News."
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the subcommittee, said the hearing lays the groundwork for "sensible reform" in the months ahead, though not likely this year.
Separately, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., filed a comprehensive immigration bill Wednesday.
Hearing testimony: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/hear_100930.html