I think it would be fair to say that our nation’s economy is in desperate need of an overhaul. We need change that will promote job growth through cutting edge thinking and modernism – a change that would come from growing the technology industry.
The immigration debate isn’t just about who will harvest our fields but who will also engineer our hard drives. The immigration reform in front of the United States Senate now, works to ensure that Americans can compete globally in the 21st century.
The Senate proposal works to reform our system for a high-skilled work force. That does not just include bringing workers from overseas, but it also means allowing visas to a highly skilled workforce that we have educated but are then forcing to return home.
At the moment, the federal government enforces an arbitrary cap of 65,000 such visas every year, and as a result, we continually lose a percentage of our math and science graduates to countries like China and India. Expanding the number of high-skilled worker visas to 110,000 will go a long way toward reducing government interference in the labor market and making sure that American businesses can hire the workers they need to prosper.
I know first-hand what it means to need a specific visa for my desired workforce. I needed employees who were educated in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math). Many of those people were educated here at our universities, but because of immigration rules and regulations they were forced to return home. I personally lost out as an employer, but more importantly we lost out as a nation by not being able to employ some of the best minds in the world.
I am not the only business owner who feels this way. A survey by the Small Business Majority reported nine in ten small business owners recognize that our current immigration system isn’t working and a vast majority – 84 percent – supports the current bi-partisan Senate proposal.
As lawmakers work toward a common-sense approach to address our country’s immigration problem they face challenges of finding the perfect option. It will never be perfect. We cannot afford inaction; the cost is too high.
I understand and support that we simply cannot just open our borders to everyone, and that we must be selective. That is why merit and skill should be the driving force behind our immigration policy. That concept spans from our fields to our factories. Our country’s economy was once dominated by manufacturing and production. However, as technology advances and economics become increasingly global, the U.S. draws more and more from our authority as an innovative and cutting-edge global leader. We need policies that encourage higher education and employment in forward-learning industries. If not, we risk falling behind. Other countries have already prioritized these areas. The market is shifting and – just like a local supermarket or an online retailer – we need to adjust to the ever-changing environment.
This is legislation that has crossed party politics and brought together congressional members who don’t always display comeradery. As an Idahoan and as an American, we need this legislation passed so that we can really move forward. The time has come and the passage of this legislation is crucial.
Jason Crawforth is the former owner of Treetop Technologies and the current owner of Pie Hole Enterprises.