As Obama Speaks, Tech Industry Praises Immigration Reform Proposal

Amid wide-ranging discussion of U.S. immigration reform — including a set of bipartisan principles introduced this week and a speech by President Barack Obama on the issue today — tech companies are particularly optimistic about a bill introduced this morning that is focused on highly skilled workers.


The Immigration Innovation Act, proposed by Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and Chris Coons, D-Del., would increase the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and establish triggers for more visas in response to market demand. It would also loosen green card rules for people who are dependents of visa recipients and people with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math from U.S. universities.

Early criticism of the bill has targeted the fact that it is a “piecemeal change” rather than comprehensive reform, but it’s possible that it could be included in future broad legislation, which hasn’t been proposed yet.

But tech leaders were quick to praise the bill, with companies such as Intel, Hewlett Packard and Google and industry groups issuing statements this morning specifically in support of the Immigration Innovation Act, which has already been nicknamed I-Squared.

The bill “is a significant step forward in ensuring that the U.S. economy has the workforce and intellectual capacity it needs to enhance innovation, spur job creation and improve our economy,” said HP VP of global government relations Gregg Melinson.

“The current focus on immigration reform presents the best opportunity we have seen in years to make needed fixes to the employment side of the immigration equation,” wrote Intel government relations director Peter Muller.

Though his most closely watched remarks were about undocumented immigrants, Obama spoke specifically to the tech industry, saying that one in four high-tech companies was started by an immigrant.

“Instagram was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and stayed here,” Obama pointed out, referencing Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, a Brazilian who studied at Stanford before working on the photo-sharing startup.