Immigration chief seeks to reassure Silicon Valley

Feb 22, 2012, 10:37 PM

Associated Press

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) – The Obama administration’s top immigration official said Wednesday he wants to keep more foreign-born high-tech entrepreneurs in the U.S. But to make that happen, he said he needs those entrepreneurs to turn their creativity to immigration itself.

Members of Silicon Valley’s startup community met with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Alejandro Mayorkas for what the agency billed as a summit to officially launch its unusual “Entrepreneurs in Residence” program.

The event held on the campus of the NASA Ames Research Center sought to address a common tech industry complaint: Non-citizens who come to the U.S. to study end up starting companies in their home countries because they say the immigration process has become too daunting.

With its new program, Mayorkas said the immigration service hopes to become more responsive to the fast-changing needs of tech startups. He said the agency would ultimately choose five applicants from the private sector to guide policy and training for officials who make decisions on individual immigration applications.

The goal, Mayorkas said, is to keep the agency from applying traditional formulas to the unorthodox business models common on the startup scene.

“To fail to do so is to fail to capture the lost potential to create jobs for U.S. workers when the need for those jobs is most acute,” he said.

One questioner, Scottish entrepreneur Scott Allison, said he came to Silicon Valley to start his company, an online human resources software service called Teamly. He said immigration piled one more uncertainty on top of the many difficulties startups face.

“The immigration process shouldn’t be something we have to worry about,” Allison told Mayorkas. “But we do have to worry about it. I don’t know where my home is.”

The Obama administration has pushed for more liberal policies to keep foreign-born engineers and scientists in the U.S. In this year’s State of the Union address, he called for reforms:

“Let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country,” the president said.

In December, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would eliminate caps on the percentage of visas that could go to immigrant workers from a specific country, clearing the way for more Indian and Chinese engineers to come to the U.S. The bill, which is pending before the Senate, does not increase the total number of available visas.

Opponents of easing the immigration path for highly skilled workers argue that equally qualified U.S. citizens are displaced by foreign-born employees willing to work for less in exchange for gaining the right to live in the U.S.

In a 2010 study, Harvard Business School associate professor William Kerr found that fluctuations in the number of visas granted to skilled workers over several years appeared to have little effect, positive or negative, on the job market for native-born engineers and scientists.

On Wednesday, Mayorkas presented five naturalized immigrant entrepreneurs with the agency’s Outstanding Americans by Choice awards. One recipient, Welsh-born Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist with high-powered Silicon Valley firm Sequoia Capital, ran down a list of significant U.S. tech companies whose founders have immigrant ties, from Russian-born Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin to Yahoo Inc. co-founder Jerry Yang, who was born in Taiwan.

Moritz said the obstacles posed by U.S. immigration policies to bringing in talented workers stands as Silicon Valley’s greatest challenge. “Take immigrants out of Silicon Valley and you have no Silicon Valley,” he said.

Another award recipient, entrepreneur and Duke University researcher Vivek Wadhwa, said his work has shown that immigrants helped found more than one-quarter of all U.S. engineering and technology companies between 1995 and 2005. The outspoken proponent of more liberal immigration policies for scientists and engineers said immigrants founded more than half of Silicon Valley startups over the same period.

He called the immigration service’s “Entrepreneurs in Residence” program a patch that alone won’t fix what he calls the “reverse brain drain” of foreign-born entrepreneurs leaving the U.S. to found companies back home that compete with this country’s businesses.

“We will now have created competitors worldwide we didn’t need to create,” he said

.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg talks to th...
Associated Press

Gaetz friend to be sentenced on sex crimes, other counts

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida tax collector whose arrest led to a federal probe into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has cooperated in investigations of two dozen people for sex trafficking and other crimes, but it may not be enough to spare him a long time in prison when he is sentenced Thursday. Joel […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting with governors and heads of R...
Associated Press

Russian FM: US, NATO directly involved in Ukraine conflict

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday accused the West of becoming directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine by supplying it with weapons and training its soldiers. Sergey Lavrov also said that Russia’s strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities and other key infrastructure that have left millions without power, heating and water were intended […]
7 hours ago
This aerial image courtesy of Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources shows lava flows on Mauna ...
Associated Press

Prayers? Bombs? Hawaii history shows stopping lava not easy

HONOLULU (AP) — Prayer. Bombs. Walls. Over the decades, people have tried all of them to stanch the flow of lava from Hawaii’s volcanoes as it lumbered toward roads, homes and infrastructure. Now Mauna Loa — the world’s largest active volcano — is erupting again, and lava is slowly approaching a major thoroughfare connecting the […]
7 hours ago
Britain's Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales, watch the NBA basketball game between the Bos...
Associated Press

Racism row erupts as William and Kate visit Boston

LONDON (AP) — Prince William’s office said “racism has no place in our society” as he sought to prevent the backlash over his godmother’s treatment of a Black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse from overshadowing his trip to the United States. Lady Susan Hussey, 83, resigned Wednesday as an honorary member of the royal […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Iran’s national soccer team receives subdued welcome home

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iran’s national soccer team received a subdued welcome home after its World Cup defeat against the United States, a match played against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran. The players returned to Iran late Wednesday, a day their 1-0 loss. Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of the regime, […]
7 hours ago
A woman uses her phone in front of monitors showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm w...
Associated Press

Asian shares gain after Fed chair signals slower rate hikes

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares advanced in Europe and Asia on Thursday after a rally on Wall Street spurred by the Federal Reserve chair’s comments on easing the pace of interest rate hikes to tame inflation. Signs that China may be shifting its approach to containing COVID-19 outbreaks to focus more on vaccinations, while some cities […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Immigration chief seeks to reassure Silicon Valley