THE BLOG
06/27/2013 11:18 am ET | Updated Aug 27, 2013

Kansas City's "Silicon Prairie" to Benefit from Immigration Reform

Why would a mayor from a midwestern city care about an issue like immigration reform? Because, frankly, we cannot afford to kick that can down the road anymore. The ability of my state, and my city, to attract and retain a qualified workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industries is lagging behind demand and the best and the brightest in the world can help close the shortfall we're experiencing. Kansas City is now referred to as the "Silicon Prairie" because of our emphasis on high tech, innovative start ups and technologies. The key to our future economic growth depends on our ability to leverage our existing assets, like Google Fiber, the award-winning Bloch School of Management at UMKC, and the presence of the internationally recognized Kauffman Foundation, with attracting a workforce capable of leading STEM industries. Human capital is vital to economic development and H1B visa issuance is just one component of the current bill that could directly impact Kansas City's economy. We need the skills of H1B workers to support our growing STEM sector. We cannot wait for another bill, another Congress, or another time. Time is literally money.

I am also supporting this effort because Kansas City has long embraced diversity. The fabric of our city is woven by many groups of people from different cultures coming together and making things a little easier for us all. We are proud of the eclectic neighborhoods of our city where residents from every corner of the world call home. We simply wouldn't want it any other way.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I support this effort because it is simply the right thing to do. Children who have known no other country call this city home. They should not be castigated or ostracized because of perceived sins they did not commit. These young people are part of our future and we should them as such.

Thankfully, a recent poll released by the Partnership for a New American Economy shows strong support in Missouri for immigration reform, including the provisions of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act currently being debated in the US Senate. A huge majority of Missourians, 72% total, says they strongly or somewhat support the overall legislation, and 75% says they support a provision in the bill to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in this country.

The bill is the product of bipartisan cooperation, something too rarely seen in Washington these days. The "Gang of Eight" as they are known, are four Republicans and four Democrats intent on fixing our broken immigration system.

As the bill was being introduced, the Partnership for a New American Economy held the largest virtual march ever organized to send a message to our elected leaders that we need immigration reform now. The March for Innovation attracted tens of thousands of people who went online and sent messages of support.

Now the effort moves to the states and Missouri is holding its own March for Innovation today.

I hope you will take a minute to add your voice to the debate. Go to www.MarchforInnovation.com and send a message to our elected leaders in Washington.

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