22 Jul

To gain a a high-tech advantage, let more smart immigrants in

A couple of years ago, Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici went to a meeting with a couple of dozen local high-tech people to see what they wanted from government. People rarely have trouble coming up with a wish list, but the table full of techies focused on one single hope:

Let more tech immigrants in.

Forget the reality that immigrants have always driven American technology, from Andrew Carnegie to Albert Einstein to Sergei Brin of Google. Forget the priority that high-tech leaders from Microsoft to Facebook to Yahoo have given to an immigration-reform political action committee.

Just think of the issue from an Oregon viewpoint, from the perspective of a place where high tech is the biggest and fastest-growing employer. Supplying its workforce needs is Oregon’s great economic challenge, both in strengthening our higher education system and in providing access to really smart people from foreign countries.

Opponents claim that more tech immigrants will take jobs from Americans. But the immigrants will start companies, and projects, that will create jobs for Americans.

The very smart tech people that an expanded visa program would admit here are going to build high-tech companies and strengthen the economy, and they could do it in Beaverton.

Or we could make them do it in Bangalore.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 7/19/14

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