The introduction of immigration reform by Congressional leaders and the White House this week promises to touch off hot debate in the country. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators presented its plan, and on Tuesday, President Barack Obama is scheduled to introduce his in Nevada. But already, an unexpected demographic has come out in support of reform -- business leaders.
While the policymakers are only beginning to hash out the specifics, the senators' plan promises a "strong employment verification" system nationwide in which employers will be "held accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers." After that, the plan calls for the hiring of immigrants only after it's demonstrated that no American citizen was available to fill the job, among other points.
Here are the four big reasons why employers and business leaders want immigration reform this year:
1. They believe that immigrants and their children are good job creators. "Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies in the United States were started by immigrants or the children of immigrants. From 1995 to 2005, half of Silicon Valley startups had an immigrant founder... creating more than 400,000 jobs," Steve Case, the chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC, and a member of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness (as well as the founder of America Online) wrote in U.S. News. "Iconic American companies that built whole new industries like U.S. Steel, DuPont, Google, eBay, Honeywell and Intel were started by immigrant founders."
2. More workers are needed for elder care. By 2035, policymakers expect 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65. Now the figure is closer to 1 in 10. In speaking to the National Press Club this week, Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Donohue addressed the need for workers to take care of America's ageing population. Without welcoming immigrant workers, he said, "we cannot sustain vital programs for the elderly and needy."
3. Employers need to hire more highly skilled workers -- and many of them are overseas. The United States currently grants 20,000 temporary work visas each year for advanced degree graduates. Leaders want to greatly increase the number through the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Act, which was passed in November to create 55,000 new "green card" visas for permanent residency.
Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, along with Clint Brolick, the vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "Other nations -- including Canada, New Zealand and even China -- are luring away students, workers and entrepreneurs with more sensible and welcoming immigration policies. If we do not adapt, we will be increasingly unable to compete."
4. The current system makes it way too complicated for small businesses to hire immigrants. Small business owners and entrepreneurs say that applying for visas for foreign workers is too difficult and filled with too much red tape. Alex Salazar, the chief executive and co-founder of Stormpath, a Silicon Valley startup, recently took to Facebook to write, "If you want to be a great startup CEO, become an expert in U.S. immigration policy."
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