Of Immigrants, Entrepreneurs and the Road to Serfdom

Of Immigrants, Entrepreneurs and the Road to Serfdom by Jerome Gentolia

Image by Ludovic Bertron via Flickr.com

This series of articles will focus on the immigration policy of the United States as it relates to our economic growth, particularly through entrepreneurial enterprise. While this is the intended focus, I may necessarily stray into other, seemingly unrelated, areas of the topic in question. It is my sincere hope that these articles will in some way foster further meaningful dialogue on a matter that I believe has the gravest of consequences for the future of our nation and I hope you will pardon my gravitas.

Some Background

Most of us with average intelligence in concert with a public education recognize the considerable contributions immigrants have made to the country. Enrico Fermi, Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun were all immigrants. The contributions these well-known immigrants made to our country (and our economy) are nothing short of legendary. Few would argue against the fact, previous waves of immigration, helped make us a great and prosperous nation. Today, however, our immigration policy fails to meet our nation’s needs and best interests. The United States integrates immigrants into its society so well that we frequently do not recognize the contributions of recent newcomers to our shores. They aren’t in the history books … yet. There is a litany of companies founded by recent émigré to the United States. These include Netgear’s founder and CEO, Patrick Lo, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, Liz Claiborne of designer fame, Andrew Grove, co-founder of Intel, Kevork S. Hovnanian, founder of Hovnanian Enterprises, one of the largest home builders in the country, Andreas von Bechtolscheim and Vinod Khosia, co-founders of Sun Microsystems and, before you grow bored, Charles Wang, founder of Computer Associates. We can attribute thousands of private sector jobs and billions in revenues (including tax revenues for Uncle Sam) to the eight individuals on this highly abbreviated “short list” of immigrant entrepreneurs. To this “short list” can be added thousands more immigrants whose achievements are less well known, but none-the-less real. Against this backdrop, I will discuss recent initiatives that pass for immigration reform in the United States of America.

H.R. 6429: The STEM Jobs Act of 2012

The acronym STEM refers to the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The bill the house recently passed is, in part, redefines how 55,000 permanent resident “green cards” are distributed. The current system, commonly known as a diversity visa lottery, was intended to benefit immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Sponsors of H.R. 6429 believe that the country is substantially better served by making these 55,000 visas available to the top foreign graduates of U.S. universities with doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics. Any remaining green cards are issued to graduates holding master’s degrees in those aforementioned fields of study. Eligibility under the bill will include: receiving the degree from an eligible U.S. university, taking all course work in the United States, and being petitioned to work for an employer who has gone through labor certification demonstrating there are insufficient willing and available American workers for the position that demonstrate the same qualifications as the foreign applicant. Those seeking the “green card” must agree to work for five years for the petitioning employer or in the U.S. in their field of study.

H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, has an encouraging sixty-eight co-sponsors. The stated purpose of this bill is as follows:

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote innovation, investment, and research in the United States, to eliminate the diversity immigrant program, and for other purposes.

This bill has passed the House of Representatives in a bi-partisan fashion with 245 yeas versus 139 nays. Incredibly, 48 of our congressional representatives failed to cast a vote either way!

In my view, this bill is fair, logical and serves the interests of the United States in a manner superior to the whims of a lottery drawing. Why would any responsible nation gamble with its future?

Resistance to Senate Passage Is on the Come

I guess we will have to ask President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the 138 other members of the House who voted against passage, not to mention the forty-eight failing to vote at all. President Obama released a Statement of Administration Policy prior to the vote, which clearly signaled his opposition to H.R. 6429. This was expanded on in a piece published recently by Declan McCullagh C-Net entitled “Obama Opposes Silicon Valley Firms on Immigration Reform”.

While the Obama administration’s warning didn’t include an explicit veto threat, it also didn’t take that possibility off the table, and it means the legislation will likely die in the Democrat-controlled Senate even if it clears the House.

Well, the legislation cleared the House, as we know. As this series unfolds, we will examine the progress of H.R. 6429 in the Senate, other proposed immigration legislation, and current immigration practice. These issues are of such consequence to the country they deserve everyone’s attention.

 

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