Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Commerce Blog
Yesterday, I was in California to talk with business executives who are part of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. We discussed key issues facing them as they continue to grow, create jobs, and drive both innovation and competitiveness here in the U.S.
They just completed an annual survey of their own membership. The biggest business challenge that they identified was their ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce.
I let them know that President Obama understands that we are in a global competition for talent and we want the best people right here in the U.S.
I gave two examples that are part of his commonsense plan for immigration reform:
First, many foreign graduate students come to the U.S. and study areas like science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM fields—at our universities. Upon graduation, we can't afford to lose those high-skilled workers to a competitor nation simply because they can't get a green card. That's why we need to "staple" a green card to their degrees, especially if there is a U.S. company that needs their particular knowledge or expertise to keep growing and creating more American jobs.
Second, some foreign entrepreneurs have successfully attracted financing from U.S. investors and are finding U.S. customers who want to buy their products. Through a "start-up visa," we want to find a path for these entrepreneurs to build their businesses in the U.S. and hire Americans to work in them. After all, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies have been founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
Taking these two steps—along with all of the others in the President's comprehensive plan for immigration reform—could help boost our GDP by up to 1.3 percent while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years.
We need to act now. There has never been stronger, broader support for immigration reform than there is today. It's time to move forward with policies that will help America out-compete and out-innovate in the 21st century.
If we are successful, our economy will grow faster, we will create more good-paying jobs, and the future will be brighter for the next generation.
Rebecca Blank is Deputy Secretary of Commerce.