Our work on smart, effective immigration reform is gaining strong momentum this week thanks to bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate. Today, eight Senators – four Republican, four Democratic – unveiled a set of principles that they believe can help to move immigration reform through the Senate. On Tuesday, the effort gets another lift with the introduction of the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act. Like the principles unveiled today, I-Squared has bipartisan support from Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Senator Chris Coons, D-Del. The bill introduction will occur on the same day that President Obama is expected to outline his principles for immigration reform at an event in Las Vegas.
Here’s the string theory pulling these actions together. The U.S. Senate has been stymied for many years on immigration reform because Senators have not shaped legislation to attract the 60 votes needed to secure approval. The intentions were good, but the results were not. Now, we have two efforts that have converged at the right moment, framing the discussion in ways that will draw greater bipartisan support to long overdue immigration reform.
For our part, the tech sector has been working to better explain the economic benefits of reform. We released a report last fall in conjunction with the Partnership for a New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, showing that there is a significant skills gap in the U.S. workforce specifically for workers with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The report gives evidence that foreign-born STEM workers complement -- not displace -- American workers, and that the American economy is facing a shortage of STEM talent now that will get progressively worse in the future absent efforts at skilled immigration reform in the near term and beefing up our domestic STEM talent pipeline over the long term. Our innovation potential depends on both sets of workers.
The economic case is gaining traction – and may be enough to help overcome the often hyperbolic, overheated debates that surround this issue. We heard a Democratic and a Republican Senator mention the jobs point at the news conference today.
“We are all united in the view that immigration is good for America, and good for employment, and good for a growing economy. And to have people who will pay taxes, who will contribute to the economic well-being is a very good thing, and we aim to get it done.”
“There are thousands of graduates with PH.D.s, with master’s degrees in technology that we want, we want to remain and -- and work in the United States of America.”
We appreciate the hard work by Senators Schumer and McCain, as well as Senators Durbin, Graham, Rubio, Menendez, Bennet, and Flake to reach accord on these principles. Their cooperative efforts to put forward a substantive set of principles will help to broaden the bipartisan coalition needed to win Congressional approval of immigration reform.
Similarly, we look forward to the introduction of the I-Squared bill tomorrow. This legislation would upgrade our immigration system for the 21st century economy. Like the principles unveiled today, the legislation is an early and essential contribution to the larger effort to revamp our overall immigration system.