Tech Sector Praises President's 'Minor' Immigration Improvements

Equipment manufacturers and tech companies applauded the President's immigration executive order, at least to the extent that it eases the path to the U.S. for high-tech innovators from across the globe, which previously wasn't to the extent those groups would have liked.

The executive order includes a number of provisions for making it easier for highly skilled workers and job creators to enter the country. According to a White House summary e-mailed to B&C/Multi, that includes:

"Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting LPR [lawful permanent resident] status and their spouses."  

"Expanding immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S., to ensure that our system encourages them to grow our economy. The criteria will include income thresholds so that these individuals are not eligible for certain public benefits like welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act."

"Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S universities."

"Streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers, while protecting American workers."

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), TechNet and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) saw it as a start, but hardly a solution. 

“We appreciate President Obama's efforts to make minor incremental improvements to the high-skilled visa and STEM visa programs and look forward to seeing more details," said CEA president Gary Shapiro. "Our high-skilled immigration system needs a complete overhaul which can’t be fixed with an executive action."

“We urge the White House and the next Congress to work together toward a legislative solution that decouples bipartisan, high-skilled immigration reform from overall reform efforts. High-skilled immigration is an issue that already has the support from Democrats and Republicans. This is a critical issue that cannot get caught up for another year in the politics of comprehensive immigration reform."

CCIA president Ed Black echoed Shapiro's sentiments.

“The President’s announced intention to take steps to streamline employment-based immigration is heartening, and we look forward to studying further details and implementation plans," said Black. "However, a long-term fix for the broken skilled immigration system still requires legislative action by Congress. We call on Congress to swiftly work on and enact immigration reform that includes resolving the chronic shortage of employment-based visas that hinder our ability to compete for global talent."

“It is estimated the inability of companies to hire high-skilled workers due to a lack of visas costs the country 500,000 jobs a year," said Linda Moore, president of TechNet."Our dysfunctional system means that every day American universities train the world’s great minds, even as the government forces them to return to their home countries to compete against American firms.

“President Obama should be commended for rejecting this deteriorating status quo by announcing some targeted relief to high-skilled workers and their spouses, and for setting a timeline for considering additional changes to how the legal system treats high-skilled workers. While we are studying the specifics of the proposal, we are encouraged by the President’s plan to make work authorizations portable and to make it easier for people educated at American universities to stay and work in the country. These are welcome – albeit narrow – changes to the system."

“The limited nature of tonight’s announcement, at least as it relates to high-skilled workers, makes it clear that sustainable reform requires Congressional action."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.