Tech Company Execs Want US Senate to Approve Immigration Reform

By Ed Silverstein June 20, 2013

Some 100 top executives from the tech industry are asking the U.S. Senate to approve comprehensive immigration reform – which has been the source of much controversy in the country as a whole.

Addressing Senate Bill 744, known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” the tech leaders want the proposal approved quickly.

"As representatives of the leading technology innovators, designers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and job creators in the United States, we write to request your support for S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. This critically important legislation would help ensure that America continues to be the location of the world's most innovative and fastest growing industries—those that rely on intellectual property and highly educated talent. Your support for S. 744 will allow America to better realize opportunities for innovation and job creation today, as well as secure our economic strength in the future,” the tech executives said in a letter sent to the U.S. Senate.

The letter also highlights how the U.S. tech sector employs over six million Americans and provides $1 trillion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

"We strongly believe the many reforms in S. 744 that impact high skilled immigration – including key improvements in the availability of both green cards and H-1B visas – will help address the national talent shortage in the near-term, while also creating a long-term pipeline of American workers through establishing a much-needed new fund for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, including computer science education,” the letter adds. “The bill will also protect and better prepare American workers, and enable employers and entrepreneurs of all sizes in every state to recruit and retain the world's best talent.”

Even if every American graduate receiving an advanced STEM degree gets a job, the U.S. is estimated to face at least 200,000 unfilled advanced-degree STEM jobs by 2018 – without the new law.

“These unfilled jobs represent lost opportunities for our country, but with S. 744, we can fill these jobs, create new ones and invest in a future of economic growth,” the letter said.

This letter follows one sent in March to President Obama and to Congress to approve legislation to reform America's high-skilled immigration laws. The letter-writing process was organized by TechNet, which represents tech CEOs.

The tech companies support a compromise immigration reform bill proposed by the bipartisan group of politicians known as the Gang of Eight.

Earlier this month, representatives from Microsoft, Qualcomm and Intel backed an effort on Capitol Hill to destroy arguments raised by labor unions, which basically oppose proposals to immigration laws concerning foreign workers with higher skills.

During a briefing, two economists, Gordon Hanson and Matthew Slaughter, rejected arguments that the presence of H-1B visa workers lowers wages for American tech workers.

Foreign workers in STEM “earn salaries that are level with American-born tech workers and that the unemployment rate for technical jobs has fallen sharply since the recession,” according to the economists’ findings – as reported by The Hill newspaper.

"Increasing the number of STEM jobs that we have in the United States increases the likelihood that the next big thing happens here," Hanson said.

"We are competing globally now," Ayush Soni, a government relations specialist at Qualcomm, was quoted by the newspaper. "We're also now competing with Chinese companies, Taiwanese companies, Korean companies…If we can't put a worker in San Diego or wherever our supply chips are, then they'll go and compete somewhere else."

Also, Microsoft has more than 6,000 jobs it cannot fill, Bill Kamela, policy counsel at Microsoft, added.

"Just to be clear, the vast majority of folks we hire every year are Americans. We will hire thousands and thousands more Americans this year than we will bring in H-1Bs," Kamela was quoted by The Hill. "For our company, it is all about complementing and supplementing what is a largely American company. Over 90 percent of our workers are not H-1Bs."

When the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an immigration bill in recent weeks, the high-tech industry got singled out by much of the news media as the big winner.

“The result amounted to a bonanza for the industry: unlimited green cards for foreigners with certain advanced U.S. degrees and a huge increase in visas for highly skilled foreign workers,” Fox News reported.




Edited by Alisen Downey

TechZone360 Contributor

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