The tech sector’s seemingly exponential growth has increased our nation’s need for a highly skilled workforce. More than any other industry, our sector’s ability to grow depends largely on highly educated tech-savvy staff, which many companies argue, isn’t readily available in the United States. Fortunately, Senators from both parties are beginning to recognize the need to reform our outdated immigration model and make it work to advance economic growth and job creation in the U.S.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) recently introduced his Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century Act which would provide an additional 55,000 employment based green cards to foreign-born, U.S. educated STEM students. Similarly, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced legislation to create a new visa category for foreign-born, American-educated masters and doctoral graduates in STEM fields. These bills, along with additional targeted green card reforms sought by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), are based on bipartisan ideas that have been discussed in policy forums for more than a decade.
Efforts by members of Congress to fix our skilled immigration system should be applauded. Ignoring the problem much longer could pose serious problems for our global competitiveness. In a recent PBS “Need to Know” segment, Stanford professor and the sector’s eminent scholar, Vivek Wadwa, said that many of our international competitors are now recruiting foreign-born students who are currently studying in the U.S. The reasons are clear –our global competitors know that U.S. policy forces many of these students to return to their native country, taking with them innovative and job creating ideas. Our competitors entice these bright minds with incentives like housing, office space, and seed money in the hope to level the international playing field with the United States.
High-skilled immigration is a zero-sum game; if current U.S. policy is not changed, these bright minds will take their ideas and job creating capabilities to their native countries or our competitors. Congress has a great opportunity this year to pass some targeted measures that would make immigration policy work for, not against, the U.S. economy. Skeptics may argue that current U.S. policy already does too much for this class of workers, but the facts tell a clearly opposite story. It is also important to note that immigrants are also 30 percent more likely to start businesses, which means hiring more people in the U.S. and growing the economy. It’s time for immigration policy to be one that is a net plus for the U.S. in the form of new opportunities, new businesses and new jobs. Educating the next generation only to have them leave to compete against us is not a winning formula for job creation at home.
Andy Halataei is Director of Government Relations at the Information Technology Industry Council.