Is Rubio Poised to Lead Congress across the Rubicon?
My concluding remarks in part 4 of this series suggested we would look at actual case histories involving real entrepreneurs and how United States immigration policies failed them and, quite frankly, failed our country. I will pick up on that, but recent developments on the legislative front must take precedence.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has taken point on immigration reform. In the past several days, he has appeared on multiple national media outlets, making possibly the most rationale and persuasive case for comprehensive immigration reform heard to date. In a speech on the Senate floor in late January Rubio articulated many of the points made in this series. In this speech, he quips,
I, for one, have no fear that our country is going to be overrun by PhDs … inventors and entrepreneurs.
Rubio concludes his remarks with a challenge to companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to get involved and inform the public on the importance of reform. I couldn’t agree more. I sincerely hope that we are making a meaningful contribution to the discourse on immigration reform by way of these blogs.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), appearing in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” opened the door to some optimism, stating,
[Immigration reform] is certainly going to pass [the Senate]. It has to get done. We have to work hard to get it done.
While Rubio, along with seven other Senators, released a bipartisan framework for reform in late January, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) revealed that a bipartisan group in the House is actually drafting a comprehensive immigration bill, which they hope to have completed prior to or immediately after the President’s State of the Union address on February 12th.
President Obama’s Nevada Immigration Speech
The chronological order in which I have presented these developments is no accident. I believe President Obama’s Nevada speech mirrors the Senate blueprint to such an extent that it would be politically difficult for the President to turn his back on any piece of legislation that follows it. In truth, the President’s main talking points give every indication of having their derivation in that very blueprint. There is no point in having a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” argument. Let’s just say it is evident that these “great minds” are, for perhaps the first time, on the same page.
There is ample reason to be skeptical of a positive result. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson, in a recent post on AVC.Com, points out that this topic has been under discussion since at least April, 2009 and no legislation has been passed to date. Wilson observes,
It’s a shame that it takes almost four years before a good idea gets the President’s support. And its a greater shame that there are many in Congress who will still vote against this idea.
Steve Case tweeted:
— Steve Case (@SteveCase) February 5, 2013
I urge everyone to support the immigration reforms outlined in the Senate blueprint, particularly those reforms relating to attracting entrepreneurial talent to the United States. Now let’s get to actual cases, as I promised in part 4.
The Case of Shikha Chhatpar and Anand Chhatpar
This young Indian couple received their engineering degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. Anand interned with Pitney Bowes and other businesses earning eight patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. Anand speaks of his heavy involvement during his college years learning about the startup culture, developing business plans and meeting with fellow students and professors to brainstorm ideas for businesses.
Not surprisingly, this led the couple ultimately to start a business known as Fame Express. Fame Express built Facebook game applications and quickly signed up millions of users and generated significant revenues, paying, in fact, almost $250,000 in taxes … while they were here.
Eventually, they were required to return to India to get their visas adjusted for the purpose of starting the process of permanent residency in the United States. A short two months later, their petition for EB-1 status was denied. The Chhatpar’s were assisted in their efforts to secure status by Vivek Wadwha, author of “The Immigrant Exodus” and a man wielding considerable influence, but all to no avail.
Now, the couple resides in Bangalore, India, they pay taxes to the Indian government and employ Indian workers. They are well regarded in India, as they should be, and this article in India Today touts the couple’s achievements. The score: India – 1, the United States – 0.
ABC’s Diane Sawyer—Brain Drain Continues
This video was aired on ABC in late 2011. Sadly, nothing has changed since then and this clip is as relevant today as it was the day it aired. After graduating Stanford Business School, launching a company that had already created nine jobs, receiving $1.65 million in VC funding and receiving kudos from “Business Insider” as one of the 20 top Silicon Valley startups, Amit Aharoni, an Israeli national, was denied his request for a visa and asked to leave the country immediately!
I’m happy to tell you, after this piece aired, viewer outrage was so intense, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) reversed its decision and blessed Mr. Aharoni’s return to the United States.
Only Public Outrage Can Change Immigration Policy
The bright light ABC’s Diane Sawyer shone on Amit Aharoni’s immigration plight stands as an example of what public opinion can achieve. We are not powerless! Marco Rubio’s call to action must not fall on deaf ears.