2013 was an important year for business immigration reform efforts. With milestones such as the founding of FWD.us, a pro-immigration political advocacy group created by a collection of Silicon Valley giants, and the letter signed by more than 100 business leaders to House Speaker Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi calling on them to take “a long overdue step toward aligning our nation’s immigration policies with its work force needs”, it seemed the business community’s momentum was likely to result in an immigration overhaul by year’s end.
The latest attempt to raise public awareness on the issue of immigration reform came from a “DREAMer Hackathon” which took place in Silicon Valley late November. This event consisted of a group of twenty immigrants coding for 24 hours straight at LinkedIn’s headquarters, a publicity stunt backed by FWD.us. During this “hackathon”, the DREAMers worked on creating a new app that could help pro-immigration reform forces share their stories and contact members of Congress, along with one that will help high-profile people share their support for immigration reform on social media.
Over the past year, many prominent business leaders have also spoken out in favor of reforming employment immigration policy. Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., explained why he thinks immigration reform is good for business, insisting “we need to make it easier for committed, highly skilled people to make their lives and livelihoods here.” Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Inc., also recently emerged as an advocate of immigration reform, stating “Providing consistent, reliable access to both high-skilled and low-skilled talent is critical to sustain our nation’s global competitiveness.”
It seems economic realities are pushing these advocates to become more active in encouraging Congress to pursue immigration reforms which will improve business immigration policies. Michele A. Carlin, a vice president for human resources of Motorola Solutions, said companies were offering many thousands of technology and other lesser-skilled jobs that were going unfilled, despite continuing high unemployment in the country, because of skill mismatches in the American labor force.
Although we were given a glimmer of hope when House Speaker Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent (a top policy aid on immigration reform) last week, the reform bill passed by the Senate earlier this year has still not been taken up by the House. As the year comes to a close, it has become an almost certainty that business owners will not see any chance of immigration reform until 2014. However, we remain hopeful that given the recent momentum towards business immigration policy reform and President Obama’s willingness to accept a piecemeal legislation approach, the New Year will bring forth more favorable immigration legislation for business owners, thus enabling the United States to stay competitive in a global economy.