Immigration

Silicon Valley gunning for the passage of immigration bill

Eye also on Issa’s proposal for 55,000 Green Cards for graduates in tech field.

American Bazaar Staff

WASHINGTON, DC: The GOP is facing intense pressure from Silicon Valley to get the comprehensive immigration bill passed, with industry watchers saying that the party will receive a chilly welcome if the bill dies.

According to a report in The Hill, House Republican leaders like Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) have visited top tech firms like Facebook and Google, and received hefty campaign funds, from an area that has been seen as being a strong Democratic stronghold.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been an ardent supporter of the bill, to help tech companies like his to hire more foreign-born workers to fill in specialist positions. He also started FWD.us, a new lobbying organization that’s dedicated to passing comprehensive immigration reform. The group boasts an A-list roster of tech donors, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and investor John Doerr, said the report in Hill.

According to the report, one of the options if the bill dies in the House is for piecemeal legislation, from the House Judiciary Committee to the floor. One of those bill include which the tech industry is very keen on: California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s proposal that sets aside 55,000 green cards for foreign graduates with advanced degrees in technical fields and raise the annual H-1B visa cap to 155,000.

Last week, Inc. magazine reported on the importance of the immigration bill for the tech industry as well as for workers in the tech industry who are stuck in limbo because their Green Cards have not yet come through.

Inc. illustrated the example of Vishal Sankhla, the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Viralheat, a social media analytics company in Santa Clara, California, who has impeccable credentials and has spent more than a decade in the country, but is scared of losing his legal status in the country. The company has already got a funding of $4.5 million.

According to the Inc. report, Sankhla’s six-year work visa is about to run out and his green card application has stalled, even though he has gathered more than a thousand pages of documentation to verify his accomplishments. He is a job creator who has hired 17 engineers among others for the newly founded company.

The report quoted Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and researcher of public policy at Stanford Law School as saying, “It used to be that Silicon Valley had the attitude that Washington was inconvenient,” but that over the last few years Silicon Valley has reached a turning point, and that perspective has changed drastically.

According to the report, because of the restrictive immigration policies, the proportion of immigrant-founded companies has dropped 8.5 percent to 44 percent since 2005, attributed in part to the difficulties these entrepreneurs have obtaining green cards that would allow them to own companies and continue working and living in the U.S. Their departure means gains for technology hubs in other countries, such as Brazil, China, and India, the report points out.

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