Michael Bloomberg Jokes That To Keep Out Immigrants, You Might As Well Build Walls Around 'Local Airports'

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg hit out at President Donald Trump's efforts to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in an interview this past week. A wall at the southern border makes no sense, he said, given statistics showing that most immigrants overstay their visas. If the U.S. really wants to tighten immigration security it should build walls around "local airports," he added facetiously.

Speaking with The San Diego Union-Tribune while campaigning in San Diego County, the former New York mayor said that while he supports welcoming immigrants into the U.S., he believes the country still needs to "be in control of our borders."

"I think two things are true. One, this country needs more immigrants and we should be out looking for immigrants," he said. "For those who need an oboe player for a symphony, we want the best one. We need a striker for a soccer team, we want to get the best one. We want a farmworker, we want to get the best one. A computer programmer, we want to get the best one. So we should be out looking for more immigrants. And other countries are doing this and we're not."

"At the same time," Bloomberg said, "we need to be in control of our borders. There's no country in the world that does not have control of its borders or isn't at least trying to get control of the borders."

"You can't rip kids away from their parents," the Democratic hopeful said in a clear dig at President Trump's former "zero tolerance" family separation policy, which saw hundreds of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. "You can't physically hurt anybody, but you have to have a balance."

Asked what his plan on border security would be, Bloomberg made clear that building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border would not be part of it.

"I think it is impractical to build a wall," he said, adding: "I also don't like the look of it quite honestly."

"Technology helps," he said. However, "the truth of the matter," Bloomberg asserted, "is that most people who are here undocumented, got a visa and flew here."

So, if the U.S. is going to build a wall, Bloomberg said, "your wall should really be around the local airport, rather than along the Rio Grande and through some mountains, which is impractical to build. You'd get small piece built, but never a long piece."

The former New York mayor was not seriously suggesting that the U.S. wall-off airports.

Ultimately, however, Bloomberg has maintained that he is strongly pro-immigrant and in favor of creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

"It's a no-brainer. You give pathway to citizenship to 11 million people. We're not going to deport them anyway; it's outrageous," he said.

"If you look in New York City, we make sure that people felt comfortable, regardless of their immigration status, to come and get city services," he said. "I was always determined that they would not be afraid to come. Somebody could need like life-threatening things and does not get medical care. This is not a game. You've got to make sure that they're okay."

Michael Bloomberg
Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg addresses the press from his newly opened Philadelphia field office on December 21, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bloomberg has said that the U.S. needs 'more immigrants' but also needs to strengthen border security. Mark Makela/Getty

New York City has long been recognized for promoting pro-immigration policies, particularly in comparison to other cities across the U.S.

Bloomberg said that he believed the U.S. has "an obligation to help people who are fleeing their countries and would be in mortal danger if they went back."

While Trump has sought to pull U.S. aid to countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, which have seen a surge in asylum seekers fleeing to the U.S. border in recent years, Bloomberg said that he would see foreign aid ramped up.

Overall, Bloomberg said, "the whole system is not working."

"We need more immigrants," he said. "And we should be in control of our borders."

Correction 1/6, 7:15 p.m: This story and headline have been corrected to clarify that Bloomberg was being facetious in suggesting that the U.S. build walls around airports.