“We have some of the brightest minds in the world coming to the United States, walking away with a skill-set from one of the world’s top educational programs, all so this talent can go back overseas,” Arnulfo Ventura, chief executive of Cobá, a small Mexican beverage company in Los Angeles, said during a call detailing the results of the poll. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
A bipartisan group of eight senators is currently putting the finishing touches on broad immigration reform legislation, which they are expected to release early next month. The high-tech and start-up communities have been closely monitoring the dealings, as they have repeatedly lobbied for changes that would, for instance, create new visas for highly educated immigrants and help foreign-born students at American universities stay and work after graduation — proposals they now hope will be included in any larger deal.
Critics of the bills, including some labor organizations, worry the measures would help employers reduce wages by hiring foreign workers, taking jobs away from Americans. The technology sector has pushed back, arguing that there simply aren’t enough talented engineers and developers to meet growing demand in the United States.
Meanwhile, for most employers at traditional small businesses, those immigration issues have seemed to pale in comparison to larger concerns like taxes, regulations and the health care law; consequently, immigration has not been on top of the agenda for those charged with representing small firms in Washington. But that’s changing.
Karen Mills, the outgoing chief of the Small Business Administration, strongly emphasized the need for immigration reform in a roundtable discussion last week with reporters in Washington. A descedant of immigrant entrepreneurs herself, Mills said that her grandfather moved to the United States from Russia and, following World War I, launched a small textile businesses in the back of a leather shop in Boston.
“I grew up with this notion that you come here, it’s the land of opportunity, and you start a business — and that’s still the way a lot of folks come into the country,” she said.
Mills later cited research that shows immigrants create more new firms per capita than native-born Americans. “We need to make sure that we continue that trend, because it has been a big strength of America,” she added. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve been so innovative and one of the ways we can continue to be competitive.”