The House, which has put immigration reform on the back burner, must act soon to allow more skilled foreign workers into to the United States to keep the economy competitive, says Steve Case, co-founder of the AOL Internet service provider.
"While immigration is often debated in the U.S. as a humanitarian matter, or a political matter, or a legal matter (and it is all those things), our global competitors see it for what it is: a critical economic matter in a global race for talent, job creation and innovation," Case wrote Tuesday in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece
Case, now the CEO of the investment firm Revolution, said it's critical that the House act quickly in passing an immigration reform bill similar to that approved by the Senate in June.
The Senate bill may not be perfect, he said, but it "establishes a startup visa for entrepreneurs, raises the cap on H1-B visas for employees in specialty fields, and makes it easier for advanced science, technology, engineering and math degree holders to stay and become citizens."
"Taken together, these reforms represent a significant step forward," he added.
Case called on the House to produce a bill "that gives us the tools to win this global battle for talent, and addresses the other economic, political and moral shortcomings of the current system."
He noted that "every day that goes by without reform, our economic future is imperiled."
Case also pointed out that while the House has balked at confronting immigration this summer, Germany in the meantime has liberalized its laws for letting in skilled foreign workers, China has increased its efforts at "foreign talent recruitment," and Canada has gotten "its new startup visa program running."
He said any more delay in immigration reform could jeopardize the nation's "leadership in entrepreneurship," which he said is now "under increasing competition."
"Will we win this global battle for talent, successfully recruiting and retaining the men and women who start American companies that create jobs . . . or will we see America's advantage move overseas?" he asked.
Case concluded by observing that 260 jobs for American workers are created for every 100 foreign-born technology and engineering workers allowed into the United States because they end up starting companies or ventures that otherwise would have never seen the light of day. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were created, he noted, by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
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