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Missouri Marches for Immigration and Innovation

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Last month, we #iMarch'ed as a nation and told Washington that we want immigration reform. The March for Innovation -- the largest ever virtual march on the capital -- was a success. We reached 45 million people via social media and tens of thousands sent messages to Congress in support of reform.

Now we must march state by state, and today is Missouri's turn. Senator Blunt and Senator McCaskill need to know that we need reform. The numbers say it all: a recent poll by Public Policy Polling and Harper Polling showed 72 percent of likely voters in Missouri support immigration reform while 58 percent said they would be more likely to vote for an elected official who supports the Gang of Eight's proposal.

Politics aside, the argument for reform in Missouri is clear.

Students in science and technology create jobs and wealth in Missouri's economy. The Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that for every 100 foreign-born graduates of a US Master's or PhD program who stay in the United States after graduation working in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field, 262 jobs are created for Americans. Yet in Missouri, more than 30 percent of our science and engineering graduate students, and almost 65 percent of our engineering PhDs, are foreign born. Right now, those talented people do not have an easy way to stay in this country after graduation and contribute to our state's economy. That helps explain why there are more than three STEM jobs available for every one unemployed worker in Missouri.

Immigrants here also create jobs through their seasonal and temporary work; a similar study showed that in 2011, visas authorized for this type of work created more than 10,400 American jobs. And immigrant entrepreneurs have also contributed to economic growth in Missouri too. From 2006-2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $650 million for the state each year. Those are just a few of the statistics, and all of this growth has happened despite anti-immigrant measures that have passed our state legislature. Imagine how all Missourians could gain with a smart, efficient immigration system in place to help our communities and industries reach their full potential.

Here in St. Louis, the region has come together to launch the St. Louis Mosaic Project to attract regional prosperity through immigration and innovation. Encouraging an inflow of foreign born will increase job growth, new business startups and economic development, resulting in shared economic prosperity for all. We need new residents with multicultural perspectives so that our regional enterprises can effectively compete in the widening global market.

We recognize that it is in our own economic interest to welcome immigrants with open arms, but we cannot be successful if immigrants can't legally get through our nation's borders to make their way to Missouri.

We are almost there. But these last few months are crucial. Wherever you are, Congress needs to hear from you. Click here to send a message from any state and lend your voice. In the meantime, we will be marching every Tuesday and Thursday -- state by state -- until our elected officials do their job and pass the reform that we need to move our country forward.