Immigration overhaul and US knowledge economy

The article was published in Global Times (US Edition)

Even as the Senate tried to pass immigration reform unsuccessfully twice over the past one decade, tech entrepreneurs have stressed the need of overhauling the system highlighting the US’ knowledge economy.
Many students in the US cannot pursue their full potential as their parents immigrated illegally. In some states like California, where there are large Hispanic minorities and large technology ecosystems, this is a very acute issue. A 2010 Pew study found that about 81 percent of total 11 million illegal immigrants are Hispanic.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched a huge ad campaign from April 23 saying that for a nation of immigrants, the US has a strange immigration policy. “It’s a policy unfit for today’s world,” he wrote in an article in Washington Post last month.
“The US has been built on the ingenuity and drive of immigrants, and in the tech community; to remain globally competitive, the President and Congress must reform our country’s archaic immigration system,” says a post by Joe Green, founder of FWD.us, a website created to press for immigration overhaul.
The FWD.us has advocated tough, effective border security measures. It said there must be a simple employment verification system to ensure that employers play by the rules, and to crack down on those who abuse the law.
FWD.us said the government must hike the number of H-1B visas to attract the world’s best and the brightest workers, while implementing reforms that encourage this talent to reside permanently in the US.
Sam Aparicio, CEO of Ringio, a software firm in Virginia, said: “Immigration reform is not just an issue of social justice. It’s one of the primary tools to re-invigorate and restart the American economy.”
The system reform is the need of the hour for highly educated workers. “If the US wants to retain its competitive edge, it has to lure the best and the brightest from around the world and help them build businesses here,” Mr Aparicio said. “The rest of the world is catching up to the recipe that made the US such an economic behemoth.”
He also urged the Senate to take bold decisions like keeping more foreign STEM students in the US, post education (what’s commonly called “staple a green card to their degree”) and increase the H1 quotas.
In the US there are huge backlogs, and talented workers have to either stick with their current employer throughout the process, or return to their country of origin while they become permanent residents, he said.
Mr Aparicio told visa process must be less costly. “Today it costs $10-$15k to do the paperwork for an H1 hire,” he said. Visas must be equally available to companies of all sizes. “Today mega tech companies get the quota’s lion’s share,” he said adding that there’s, of course, the issue of how we handle illegal immigration.
Former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said that US immigration system is broken. It does not serve the national security interests and the economic security interests, he said.
Amy Hill Hearth, New York Times bestselling author, said: “The immigration issue is a vexing problem. I understand why people from around the world wish to come here. Who can blame people for wanting a better life for themselves and their children? I hope we can settle the issue in a way that is both fair and compassionate.”

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