In the aftermath of a sixteen-day government shutdown that cost our country $24 billion, the message from the American people was clear: we are tired of the partisan gamesmanship and bickering on Capitol Hill. Now, more than ever, the American people are wondering if their Congress can rise to the challenge and pass legislation that lowers our deficit, creates jobs, encourages entrepreneurship, and leads to long-term, sustainable economic growth. We can accomplish all of this if we finally come together and finish the job on comprehensive immigration reform.
As members of the New Democrat Coalition -- a group committed to America's economic prosperity -- we have worked to introduce in the House a commonsense immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship. Our members come from America's business community: we have leading entrepreneurs within our ranks, as well as former executives in the tech, health care and financial services industries. We understand business, and we know that comprehensive immigration reform is good for the economy. The dynamism and innovative spirit of the American economy comes from the drive of immigrants who come to our shores in search of a better life. We know the importance of high-tech immigration to America's economy: 56 percent of the top 25 tech companies in 2012 were founded by first and second-generation Americans, and those companies now employ over 1.2 million people nationwide. We've often repeated the fact that 42 percent of America's Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
We've been ready to work with our colleagues in the House Republican Conference on a serious fix to our immigration system, and we've made that clear throughout the process. In a globally-competitive economy, it's more important than ever that we attract and retain a skilled workforce in the United States. Bijorn Billhardt, the founder and CEO of Enspire Learning recently said, "The next generation of young people, like me, hungry for success and willing to roll up their sleeves can now easily find other places to start companies." Our current policy educates the brightest minds from around the world and ships them away to create jobs somewhere else. Republicans and Democrats from all over the country have found common ground on this key issue. As the people's voice in Congress we owe it to the American people to work together and bring immigration reform to a vote.
Our message to Speaker Boehner is this: give immigration reform a vote. Business leaders, farmers, faith leaders, law enforcement, your fellow Republicans and people from all walks of life agree that we need to tackle this problem now. Don't do it for us, do it for the millions living in the shadows, searching desperately for a chance at the American Dream. The entire country is watching us to see if we, their elected leaders, can seize the moment and work together. We cannot afford to fail them once again.
Immigration reform isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It's an issue of whether or not we, as Americans, want to open the door of opportunity to the drivers, the dreamers, the doers, the passionate people whose talents have helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.
Speaker Boehner, we stand ready to work with you to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Representatives Joaquin Castro, Jared Polis, Joe Garcia co-chair the New Democrat Coalition's Immigration Task Force. Representative Suzan DelBene is a vice-chair of the New Democrat Coalition Technology, Education and Entrepreneurship Task Force.