Last month, the New York Times reported on an informal alliance between Silicon Valley and immigration advocates.
The reason is simple: executives in tech want more minds to innovate and don’t think there should be any bars on employing them whether they’re American or foreign-born. As the push for immigration reform broadens, the industry is flexing its muscles to make sure more visas for highly-skilled, tech workers are extracted from legislation.
So far, leaders in the field have met with lawmakers and the Technology CEO Council–representing companies like Dell and Intel–testified at the first Senate hearing on immigration reform in 2013. The push has been felt: some, like Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, feel that visas for highly-skilled tech workers will be an indispensable part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Much movement has already been made on the subject: broader legislation was introduced in late January–we wrote about it here–and a group of Republicans and Democrats, known as the Team of Eight, have reached an agreement on exactly what the word “comprehensive” would entail.
President Obama himself has been pushing for reform both in his State of the Union address and in separate speeches. More visas for tech innovators was a pillar of his proposed blueprint for reform.
Both Facebook and Microsoft have been highly active in the debates, complaining that they’ve had to open offices outside of the US because they couldn’t secure even temporary H-1B visas for the engineers they would have preferred to have work at their headquarters. 65,000 H1-B visas are available each year and they usually run out within a couple months.
As Bruce Mehlman, a tech lobbyist, said in the article, “The issue has truly ripened. Levels of optimism are higher than they’ve been in a while.”