Using immigration to spur growth
Posted on September 27, 2011
Of all the sad aspects of the stalemate over federal immigration policy, perhaps the worst is America’s failure to take advantage of the fact that so many talented entrepreneurs want to bring their invaluable skill sets to the U.S., which would immensely help our economy and create jobs – especially in the high-paying technology sector.
The powerful boost that skilled immigrants provide the U.S. economy is a matter of record. Research shows 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or the children of immigrants. Immigrants founded or cofounded more than half of Silicon Valley startups.
Given this history and the deep U.S. economic slump, the proposed Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America (IDEA) Act now being considered by Congress should be a slam dunk. The measure, co-sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., would:
• Create a new EB-1 green card category for holders of advanced degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields from top universities. The wages they are paid must be as good as or better then those paid to holders of similar jobs.
• Create a new green card category for entrepreneurs who have investors prepared to supply at least $500,000 toward a new commercial enterprise; who can prove their new businesses have created at least three full-time jobs for U.S. workers; or who meet other criteria.
• Make it easier for the spouses and minor children of STEM-trained immigrants to receive visas to stay in the U.S.
• Remove unnecessary hurdles that prevent companies from obtaining green cards for highly qualified potential employees.
• Direct that hundreds of millions of dollars in fees paid by employers who file employment-based green card petitions for foreign workers be used to provide STEM scholarships to and improve STEM education for U.S. students.
Unemployed Americans seeking science or technology jobs have ripped similar proposals in the past, saying that bringing in foreigners with STEM training would make it even more difficult for them to find work. But officials with high-tech firms say these individuals often are people with outdated skills.
Far more serious opposition has come from Republicans who have increasingly reflexive views on immigration. While we support comprehensive immigration reform, we understand the broad range of opinions over illegal immigration, and acknowledge that there are well-meaning people offering factual arguments who don’t agree with our take. But on the issue addressed by the IDEA legislation, we don’t see thoughtful arguments from the other side. If history shows bringing in talented entrepreneurs triggers economic growth and creates new jobs – and it does – then why not seek out these individuals instead of forcing them to navigate an immigration system that often seems arbitrary or even capricious?
The IDEA Act is an idea whose time has come.
Union-Tribune Editorial Board
26 Sept 2011