Yesterday, in a widely anticipated vote, Senate Republicans blocked efforts by the Senate leadership and the Administration to pass the President’s $447 billion jobs bill. The maneuver leaves the President’s plan, laid out last month before a joint session of Congress and campaigned upon across the country for the last few weeks, dead on arrival.
So where do we go from here? What is the next step that we can take now to get the Engine of growth in this country running again?
Simply put, we can’t, as entrepreneurs or advocates or the skilled-but-unemployed or politicians sit back and wait for next November. There are real, critical, dynamic issues that demand attention and need it now.
One of those issues is immigration, and how we keep skilled labor, people of exceptional talent and thinking and entrepreneurs working in America. For years, the visa process has stood in the way of keeping that talent on our shores. In times past, with America booming and shining like the beacon of freedom and ingenuity to the world, we could overlook these types of issues. No one was going to start a business of promise anywhere but here.
But in a globalized world, things have changed. Whether it’s STEM students returning home because there simply are more job opportunities there, or others seeking opportunities in programs like Startup Chile, where you can apply for a 1-year visa and a $40,000 grant if you begin your startup process in Chile, or wanting to leave a position with a company as an immigrant to start your own business and losing your ability to do so in this country, the world has grown up to American standards - and in many ways, has passed them.
Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has introduced a bill to the Congress to begin advancing America’s cause in a small way. His bill, HR 3012 - the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, would work on amending one key piece of the puzzle in terms of allowing companies to hire high skill workers, as well as allowing those high skilled immigrants the opportunity to start businesses in America. Under current law, of the certain number of employer based visas issued every year, so called EB class visas, the allocation is done on a percentage basis by country of origin, with each country receiving 7% of the allocation. So, if you come from China, or you come from Liechtenstein, you have access to 7% of the pool, and is further exacerbated by the fact that it can lengthen wait times for green card status by decades. (Oh, and nothing against Liechtenstein, I hear it’s a beautiful country, we’re simply making an argument about scale here.)
Chaffetz’s bill would
move that cap to 15% of the pool for countries with historically higher application rates and population pools in the short term, which in the long term should reduce the wait times for green cards to a more manageable length of time - Vivek Wadhwa of The Washington Post asserts they could fall to as little as 12 years or less.
Again, this is not earth-shattering legislation, it will not fix our issues for entrepreneurs and visa limitations overnight, but it is roughly analogous to a common ground piece of legislation offered in the previous congress by California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, and, more importantly, it moves the conversation forward. And when you couple bills like the one offered by Chaffetz with moves like the ones taken by USCIS this week, namely the creation of an “entrepreneurs-in-residence” program to take a look at these issues, as well as the Startup America initiative, we begin to see a way to get past the talking points and the punditry and work towards real progress.
In short, we have an opportunity here. Let’s take it, and together, move the conversation and start on the road to real reform, real progress and expansion of opportunity.