THE BLOG
06/11/2013 05:09 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2013

Innovation and the American Dream

Our nation is built upon a history of immigration, dating back to our first pioneers, the Pilgrims. For more than three centuries, we have welcomed generations of immigrants to our melting pot of hyphenated America: British-Americans; Italian-Americans; Irish-Americans; Jewish-Americans; Mexican-Americans; Chinese-Americans; Indian-Americans. The list goes on.

These groups of new Americans helped to drive the economic engine of the 20th century. Forty percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Immigrants are also responsible for nearly a quarter of the patents filed in the U.S. If we continue welcoming the best and the brightest from around the world, educating them in our colleges and universities, and embracing their efforts to start their companies here in America, our nation will continue to lead the world in innovation and discovery.

My parents came to the United States from India in the late 1950s and pursued their college educations. My father received his graduate degree in chemical engineering, and my mother received hers in education before becoming a public school teacher for 35 years. My parents made a home in America, raised three boys, and instilled in them ethics of hard work and public service. They proudly became citizens in 1969. My family's American story has played out in countless other families across our nation for generations. It is the American dream.

But many people today can't realize that American Dream. Although American universities are educating a record number of foreign students in the science, math, and technology fields, after graduating, these students are not allowed to put their education to work in the U.S. Instead, because of outdated immigration laws, they return to their native countries to compete against us.

As we reform these outdated immigration laws, we must make the American Dream accessible again, and help build the pipeline of skilled workers for the jobs our American companies need to fill to be competitive. The "Gang of Eight" immigration bill, created by a bipartisan group of eight senators, includes provisions supported by the high tech community that allow students and entrepreneurs to be educated here to stay in the U.S. and contribute to our economy, while also ensuring that American students will be trained for the jobs of the 21st century economy.

One of these provisions will increase the number of high tech and specialized visas, including the H1-B visas that help U.S. companies, especially those here in California. The money made from the fees that companies would pay for these additional visas would be invested into improving science, technology, engineering, and math education for American students. This is a common-sense measure that's both smart and responsible. It will help create jobs here now, and in the future. The bill also improves the J-1 visa program for highly-educated foreign employees and students to visit the United States for on-the-job training and cultural education. Similar legislation I'm introducing in the House would increase J-1 visas and expand a program that helps rural and low income communities attract physicians to meet their health care needs. These measures need to be part of any comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in the House.

Soon, I hope I'll have the opportunity to debate how we reform and update our immigration system. I will relate my own story and that of the countless immigrants whose American Dream stories have helped build our country into the greatest nation in the world. Almost 60 years ago, my parents moved to America to pursue their dreams. They worked hard, played by the rules, and raised three American boys. By encouraging this type of high-skilled immigration - letting the best and the brightest come to our country and live their own American dream - we can continue to lead the world in innovation.

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