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Immigration and the Economy

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The challenge for our country is to formulate a policy for maintaining U.S. political and economic leadership by attracting and retaining skilled immigrants and a program of legalization and steps for securing the country's borders in an effective and humane way. Fortunately a momentum for immigration reform among political leaders appears to be on the horizon.

My career has been diversified with research leadership stints at universities, national laboratories, a blue chip corporate research center and six technology companies. University engineers, medical doctors and scientists were recruited from the global market place because of the fact that our leadership understood that success hinged on employment of leading global talents to lead research and product development research laboratories and manage far reaching global collaborations. Considerable time, energy and monetary resources were invested in building research teams that spanned international borders, languages and cultures in search of leading talent. This was followed by additional investment for legal assistance for allowing recruited international employees to acquire the required immigration documentation for employment and/or short term visitation.

During these years, I have watched immigrants succeed in front of my eyes- I've personally worked with three company CEOs, one university dean, two departmental chairs and seven research directors all of whom were first generation immigrants where I had leadership roles. And of course, the immigration process is not limited to professional talents but to support personnel. Many support personnel positions are not attractive to U.S. citizens but the positions are sought by immigrants. A textbook example is my former tech company which was located in San Carlos, California, where Mexican farm workers provided support for the Company's plant breeding program. The workers arrived punctually at 6:00 A.M. each morning and conducted their responsibilities at the highest performance level.

This challenging environment for securing talent in the global workplace continues. In fact, it is perhaps, even more difficult today. For instance, Facebook's new temporary development office in Vancouver underscores how broken the US immigration policy remains. According to the Vancouver Sun, Facebook will hire 150 freshly graduate engineers to help expand and support their products. The idea is to create a holding facility for new highly skilled employees undergoing the one year process to obtain a permit to work in the United States. The question is should Facebook need to invest resources to build an office off-country simply to spend the time and money to bring its new employees to the United States?

Silicon Valley executives are currently pressing D.C. on immigration law fixes according to CNET News. In an unusual show of support that underscores how important the topic has become, executives from Facebook, Google, eBay and other major companies sent a letter to President Obama which states that the current immigration system is broken, they say blaming visa shortages, long waits for obtaining Green Cards, and difficulties bringing spouses and children to the United States. The letter was also signed by CEO's and top executives from 100 companies including AT&T, Cisco, Eventbrite, Fry's Electronics, HP, Intel, Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft, Oracle, Qualcomm, Technet, Yahoo and Zygna. It is important to note that immigrants founded eBay, Google, Intel, PayPal, and Yahoo and according to Google, 40 % of technology companies that have been founded in the United States, were financed by venture capital, went public, and founded by immigrants. According to the Population Reference Bureau article published on March 25, 2013. It should be noted that 76% of patents from America's top ten patent-generating universities in 2011 had a foreign-born inventor.

Innovation has affected our culture so deeply that it has spurned its own sort of political and social party, known as the Innovation Movement. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) led by CEO Gary Shapiro and author of Ninja Innovations, founded the Innovation Movement in 2009 because of a survey showing that just 13% of Americans believed that the United States would remain the world's innovation leader in ten years and many thought that the United States would soon take a backseat to China. The goal of the Innovation Movement, consisting of one-hundred thousand members, is to reverse the failed approach to economic revitalization of America by dealing with issues such as international trade, immigration policy, deficit reduction, broadband development and various other issues that affect the ability of Americans to innovate.

Citizens are recognizing that if we discourage the worlds best and brightest from joining our ranks, they will find somewhere else to innovate. Countless number of undergraduate, graduate and professional school graduates earning degrees from U.S. institutions of higher learning and unable to obtain permits to work in the United States and face deportation. Approximately 50,000 highly educated foreign university graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are pushed out annually according to Forbes 07/30/2012. The immigration of skilled workers must be followed by a pathway for adjustment of family members which is in fact an economic bulwark. Families incubate job-creating businesses, provide a safety net for their members and hasten assimilation according to the Editorial Board of the New York Times which summarized the immigration process as follows:

Immigration is more than a business relationship America has with selected foreigners. It's a process that renews the country; it means going all-in on America, through binding ties of love and blood. Recruited workers enrich the country. Reunited families do, too.

The challenge confronting Washington D. C. is to formulate a policy for maintaining U.S. political and economic leadership by attracting and retaining skilled immigrants and a program of legalization and steps for securing the country's borders in an effective and humane way. This requires providing work permits and/or a pathway to legalization for the eleven million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States which would potentially provide a windfall for the economy. The fact is that the majority of the undocumented residents are gainfully employed in the construction or service industry. Half of the undocumented residents entered the United States legally but now have expired visas. Can one imagine the Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami or New York workplace in the absence of undocumented residents? The Country requires workers at all levels of the economy. As Representative Gutierrez of Illinois recently put it, "Silicon Valley engineers and entrepreneurs would not be very productive if they did not have food to eat, or people to care for their children or parents, or a clean office and clean clothes or a made bed in their hotel room on a business trip. All jobs which few U.S. Citizens apply.

Allowing our undocumented residents a penalty waiver for filing late and pay up to ten years of back taxes could possibly be significant in lowering the national debt and maybe eliminate the debt completely. Let's alleviate the internal dysfunctional political stalemate and legislate appropriate immigration laws to harmonize the undocumented resident issue. Through the stroke of a pen our politicians can bring a boom to the economy.

During the past few weeks significant progress appears to be happening according to an article published in the New York Times dated April 4, 2013. This week the Senate is expected to introduce a broad bill, including proposals to allow immigrants here illegally to gain legal status and eventually become citizens. A bipartisan group in the House is also in the final stages of preparing a comprehensive bill. The politicians have at last grasped the importance of joining the citizen movement for providing a roadmap for citizenship to the eleven million undocumented residents in the United States or run the risk of losing control of their political positions during the 2014 and 2016 election.

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