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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Why the tech industry should care about immigration

Washington Post blogger Nancy Scola brought an interesting tech angle to President Obama’s executive order immigration.

In the plan he announced Thursday, Obama wants to protect 4 million people – 3.7 million undocumented parents with children who are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and another 300,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

But the plan – and this is what Scola focuses on – also will make it easier for foreign students and recent grads from U.S. school to work in high-tech jobs.

Obama wants to expand the Optional Practical Training program, which will allow these students to remain and work in the United States for up to 29 months. The Homeland Security Department will implement the plan which still needs to go through a rulemaking process.

Scola reports that the Optional Practical Training program has been criticized for a lack of oversight by the participating colleges. But part of Obama’s plan includes requiring stronger ties between the students and their colleges and universities following graduation.

A second tech-related aspect of his plan directs DHS to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get approval to work in the United States by expanding immigration options. The entrepreneurs will have to meet certain criteria such as creating jobs, attracting investment and generating revenue in the United States.

One area where the tech industry will be disappointed is the H1-B visa which allows highly skilled workers to stay. That remains capped at 65,000, which the tech industry wants to see increased. The cap is set by Congress.

I’m not a big fan of H1-B because the visa is held by the employer, which ties the employee to them. They have no economic freedom.

For the most part, I’m pretty liberal when it comes to immigration. On my mother’s side, I’m a first generation American. I remember being a child and waving a small American flag when mom took the oath of citizenship. She had been in the United States at least 15 years by then.

The tech industry and the country as a whole can only benefit from immigration reform that encourages smart, talented and hardworking people to stay here, go to school, take care of their families and infuse our country with new ideas and energy.

I don’t see a downside.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:23 AM

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