U.S. Markets closed

Blankfein: The immigration debate isn't as simple as right versus wrong

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein weighed into the immigration debate that’s been heightened this week by U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border of separating children from their parents who are attempting to enter the country illegally.

In an interview with the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday, Blankfein said that while the issue has been viewed largely in terms of right versus wrong among politicians and much of the general public, he sees it more as “right versus right.”

“The immigration debate has split the country,” he said.

While he described the scene at the U.S.–Mexico border as “horrible, tragic situations,” he also said that from a governmental perspective, he understands why strict measures to restrict the flow of immigrants may be necessary.

“I don’t hear anybody talking about the consequences,” Blankfein said. “How long would it take for millions of people to appear on our southern border if we permitted it?”

He went on to reference the flood of refugees into Germany that has occurred since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country to people trying to escape crises in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. He argued that the flow has put stress on governments’ finances and created geopolitical risk.

“It’s never right against wrong, good against evil. The issues are always right against right — now what do you want to do? Both sides are right,” he said. “You admit millions of people into Germany and what happens? The European construct that worked for 60 or 70 years — which arguably ended a pattern of every generation in warfare — that is put at risk by immigrants. Is that right to do?

“Is it right to leave people, babies, strewn on beaches? Of course not. It’s easy to criticize, and it’s easy to say what you would do when you don’t have to bear the consequences of what you decide.”

Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Asked whether these hard choices had led Blankfein to eschew thoughts of entering politics in the future, he said no, but he did say that he’s got no plans to mount a campaign for mayor of New York City.

“I would be mayor of New York,” Blankfein said. “But I wouldn’t run for mayor.”

Dion Rabouin is a markets reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @DionRabouin.

Follow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.