Sept. 1, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Strategic Immigration Reform Is Our Competitive Advantage | Commentary

Recently the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The bill ensures the United States will remain a magnet for talent and innovation, proposing new visas for high-skilled immigrants. These visas would allow the U.S. to retain the best and brightest ó a critical step in addressing our nationís shortage of high-skilled workers. This bipartisan bill may not be perfect, but we cannot wait another 18 years for the chance to bring our immigration system up to speed. The global economy wonít wait for us.

Now itís time for the House to bring its version of comprehensive immigration reform to the floor. Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., are leading the charge in securing committee approval of the SKILLS Visa Act, which works to address high-skilled immigration.

The SKILLS Visa Act would tackle our nationís shortage of high-skilled workers by giving green cards to foreign graduates of our universities who get degrees in STEM fields, increasing the number of H-1B visas, and repealing the current 7 percent, per-country cap. It also creates an entrepreneur visa program and strengthens the current investor visa program. Even as it opens the doors to high-skilled foreign workers, the billís market-based approach will protect American workers. Letís keep this legislation moving.

As Iíve pointed out before, high-skilled immigrants are responsible for creating one-quarter of startup technology companies in the U.S., and thatís not just in the places youíd expect. Research from policy group Engine Advocacy shows that cities as diverse as Cambridge, Mass.; Boulder, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Wichita, Kan., all have high concentrations of high-tech employment. It gets better. For every job created in the high-tech sector, Engine Advocacy research shows that 4.3 additional jobs will be created in the local goods and services economy.

High-tech startups are proven job creators in the U.S. Why are we pushing them away, especially when the National Science Foundation is already spending tax dollars on education grants for STEM professors, many of whom work closely with and rely on the ingenuity of foreign-born graduate students? We need to fix whatís broken before these individuals, their businesses and the jobs they bring with them go somewhere else because they cannot legally stay in the U.S.

For America to remain the worldís leading innovator, we must embrace immigration policy reforms that maintain our reputation as a place where talented, motivated workers can build businesses, create new jobs and contribute to the overall success of our economy.

There is a billboard outside San Francisco International Airport that reads: ďHave H-1B visa problems? Pivot to Canada.Ē It doesnít get any clearer than that. Weíre competing in a global economy, and countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia are getting more aggressive by granting more visas for entrepreneurs based on skills.

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