For those who watched the talk I did with Paul Smalera, some of this will be redundant. Paul asked me why we haven't gotten all of these "no brainer" immigration reform proposals like the startup visa (funded entrepreneurs get to stay in the US and build their companies here), or the STEM visa (graduate degrees in STEM come stapled with a visa), or an end to kicking undergrads out after they graduate.
The answer is that there has been a long standing debate in the US about "comprehensive immigration reform" which involves putting many of the immigrants who are already here on some sort of path to citizenship in return for a committment to strengthening our borders so we get less illegal immigration.
And all of these really great ideas about piecemeal immigration reform that both sides support have been hostage to the big idea of comprehensive reform. If the elected officials give industry the things they want like more H1B visas, STEM visas, startup visas, etc, then they lose our collective pressure on the immigration issue. And they need our collective pressure (and money) to get this done.
Last week, the "gang of eight" introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It is now making its way through hearings and such and will eventually face a vote in Congress. This bill includes all of these piecemeal proposals we have been advocating for in the startup and tech community for years:
- startup visa
- STEM Green Card
- undergrads are allowed to intend to stay in the US after graduation
- one line for green card applications
- merit-based, points-system green card
- merit-based green card will clear out backlogs
- more H-1Bs
So if you want to see all of these good and important changes to the immigration laws in the US, you have to get behind comprehensive immigration reform. That's the way the deck is stacked in this debate. It took me a long time to understand that and although it is illogical, it is the way it is.
There are many opponents to the comprehensive immigration reform bill out there. And they will use anything, including things like what happened in Boston last week, to kill it. We need everyone in the tech industry and the world of startups to get behind this bill. Not only because it addresses pretty much every request we have made on immigration but also because the US is a land of opportunity and diversity and it is our greatest strength that we allow good people to come here and build a life, a career, a family, and a company.