Obama backs immigration reform for skilled tech workers

The president speaks in support of changing immigration laws for foreign-born programmers and engineers, while U.S. senators introduce a new bill aimed at the same cause.

Obama announced today that he backs immigration reform. White House

Tech companies may score a victory in their hopes to get immigration reform passed for skilled tech workers.

President Obama urged Congress today to work on immigration policy that would allow foreign-born startup founders to stay in the country. At the same time, several U.S. senators introduced a bill focusing on the same. As U.S. immigration policy currently stands, U.S.-educated computer programmers and engineers could be deported once finishing school.

"Right now in one of those classrooms there's a student wrestling with how to turn their big idea -- their Intel or Instagram -- into a big business," Obama said during a speech in Las Vegas today. "We're giving them all the skills they need to figure that out, but then we're going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico or someplace else. That's not how you grow new industries in America. That's how you give new industries to our competitors. That's why we need comprehensive immigration reform."

The president mentioned that Instagram was co-founded by an immigrant -- Brazilian Michel Krieger who studied at Stanford University. But, he said, not all startup founders are able to secure visas and stay in the U.S.

In addition to Obama urging Congress to act today, a handful of U.S. Senators -- Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Chris Coons, D-Del. -- introduced new legislation called the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013. This bill focuses on reforming the country's immigration laws for high-skilled workers. The idea is to increase the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000, along with easing green cards rules.

Several tech companies have come out in support of such reform. Google, Intel, and Hewlett Packard all commended the government's efforts on changing the country's immigration policy today.

Google's senior vice president of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, wrote in a blog post today that immigrants founded 40 percent of tech sector companies that went public in the U.S., including Yahoo, eBay, Intel, and Google. And, one in four startups were founded by an immigrant. Combined, these companies employ about 560,000 workers and make $63 billion in sales.

"Our experiences here at Google and in the tech sector show us that immigrants to the U.S. are a powerful force for entrepreneurship and innovation at every level, from startups to multinational corporations," Bock wrote.

 

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