ITI and TechElect have long advocated for high-skilled immigration reform. The 21st century demands bright and creative minds that are able to think big and turn innovative ideas into life-changing goods and services. Unfortunately, outdated U.S. immigration policies are keeping the skilled talent we need in the U.S. either out of the country or from starting new business ventures. Too often, we educate foreign-born students at some of the best colleges and universities in the world, only to make them leave after they graduate. Hundreds of thousands of foreign-born professionals are already here in the U.S. on temporary visas, but can’t get the permanent visas they need to advance in their own companies or launch startups that create American jobs. Our foreign competitors are happy to hire these new graduates and budding entrepreneurs, knowing full well that they are the job creators their current and future economies need. This puts the U.S. at a distinct disadvantage of our own making. Fortunately, Governor Mitt Romney recognizes the dilemma.
Today, Governor Romney outlined an immigration reform agenda in remarks before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando. The Governor’s three-point framework is based broadly on a series of bipartisan ideas that are rooted in reform proposals we have been advocating for going back to at least 2005. His plan to raise the caps on temporary visas for highly skilled immigrants is similar to a plan offered by Senator John Cornyn of Texas that passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support in 2006. The Governor’s proposal to raise the per country caps also has a history of bipartisan support and leadership from Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Jason Chaffetz and Senators Mike Lee and Charles Schumer. The House of Representatives even passed Mr. Chaffetz’s plan last December with 389 votes in support. Last but not least, the Governor’s call to allow every foreign-born student who earns an advanced degree in STEM at a U.S. university to stay here permanently is part of several bipartisan proposals known as the Startup Act 2.0. Taken together, the Governor’s proposals are easily achievable, commonsense solutions that could help kick-start our sluggish economy.
Highly-skilled immigrants are quickly becoming a vital piece of the economy fabric that makes up this country. Studies indicate that immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business, and some of the most successful tech ventures to date owe their existence to those born abroad. “Immigration reform,” said the Governor, “is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well. Immigrants with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at a high rate.”
Governor Romney’s skilled immigration plan has its origins in proposals with strong bipartisan support in Congress. The question then is when Congress will put down the political football and update our immigration policy.