Well in New York City, I have an executive order that we will not ask your documentation status for any government service, unless the federal government requires it, or you get arrested.
What nobody quite understands about the undocumented, and I think it’s true no matter where they come from, all the conventional wisdoms of Lou Dobbs -- who has done an enormous amount of damage to this country – the undocumented have very low (rates of) crime. Why? Because they don’t want to go near the government.
Undocumented pay taxes. Why? Because their company deducts and there’s no place to send the refund. Undocumented don’t use our schools very much. They tend to be young people coming here who don’t go and have families. They tend to send money back home.
Undocumented don’t use our hospitals much. Why? Because most of us use three quarters of our medical expenses in the last three years of our life, and these are young people who come here. And the argument that undocumented take jobs away from Americans is just not true. You cannot get Americans generally to do these jobs.
Now you can say wait a minute and pay them more, but if you did that, yes, more Americans would take them, but the organizations couldn’t survive. Golf courses can’t survive if they have high-cost grass cutters.
To answer your question on what do you do, it’s the elected officials. They are cowed, and it’s not Republican or Democrat, it is to some extent geographical.
Here in New York City you would never hear somebody complain about immigration. On the other hand, you don’t have to go very far, just go to Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Westchester, although Nassau and Suffolk seem to be the worst, and you can see …
who the hell cuts their lawn? Who the hell builds the things?
It’s all undocumented. It’s like people who believe in creationism. I always wondered, what doctor do you go to? You want a doctor that doesn’t believe in science?!
What I can do for local government is make sure that we welcome immigrants, and that people understand how valuable they are.
You’ve been to Ireland several times. What’s your lasting memory?
Well, I did have a six and a half hour dinner at Bono’s with Penelope Cruz sitting across the table from me -- I’ll remember that! Javier Bardem was there but I didn’t know who he was!
Bono’s a great guy. It was his daughter’s birthday, and back in New York it was my oldest daughter’s birthday, so he grabbed my phone...
Your daughter had an Irish boyfriend?
That’s the younger one. She dumped him. The latest one is English who was born in Philadelphia. She’s in Europe, and wants to go to Ascot because he’s in the horse business. She said, ‘Where do I go to buy a hat?’ I said, ‘Your mother’s English, call her and ask her.’
But I think, seriously, you walk away with a feeling of determination, rational, reasonableness. When I drive down the street, I look for a few things. I think how many blocks can you go before you see a piece of trash in the streets? And do people have smiles on their faces?
And you see a lot of smiles in Ireland, and in the North. Nobody has got this grimace on their face, the nasty look, they seem reasonable. But nice people.
It’s a western place, friendly, typical, hard-working. My former wife is British. Her father was a career officer in the RAF and he used to talk about the difference in people in the U.K. They don’t move very easily if their job is an hour away. They’d say, ‘Oh there’s no jobs.’
(In Ireland,), it’s not a culture where they sit back and depend on the government to do things. There’s an understanding that you’re responsible for your own success.
So are you convinced that they will come out of this recession?
Yeah. Something will happen, I don’t know when. I just don’t know what it takes to get Ireland out of this. They don’t have a lot of the over-building Spain has. Spain has got a much bigger problem.
They do have the advantage of a culture and the language. The only danger in Northern Ireland is the peace thing.
But overall, it’s an exporting country and if the rest of the world slowly stops buying things, because the leverage of a smaller country, they get badly hurt.
I’m more optimistic on America in the very short term. Actually England has a bigger problem that Ireland. It’s not obviously in percentages, but England has a lot of over-building.
What are your priorities for your new term, if you are elected?
Number one -- continue the schools, and the one thing we can do to eliminate or ameliorate most of our social problems is a better education.
Somebody once said to (New York City schools chancellor) Joel Klein, “They’ll never fix education until you end poverty.’ And he said, ‘No no, you got it wrong, you’ll never end poverty until you fix education.’