The president voiced his support for those so-called “startup visas” when he outlined his immigration proposals during a speech last month in Las Vegas, but he did not specifically reference them in the State of the Union.
Research in the past few months has shown that previously booming levels of immigrant entrepreneurship have tapered off, and the drop has been especially steep in some of the country’s premier innovation hubs like Silicon Valley. The decline prompted some academics to lobby for quicker, targeted solutions to luring more talent away from other countries.
Two of the nation’s most visible entrepreneurship advocates, however, applauded the president for continuing to swing for the fences on the immigration front. Scott Case, co-founder of Priceline and chief executive of the Startup America partnership, commended Obama for going for “the whole enchilada” and emphasized the importance of including provisions for highly skilled foreigners in any grand bargain.
“Correct or incorrect, there’s a belief that there’s momentum right now for a comprehensive deal,” Case said in an interview Wednesday. “I can completely appreciate the president’s approach, and if he can get it done, good for him. But if the whole thing can’t get done, I still think there’s a good chance it could get broken into pieces.”
Steve Case, a member of Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and co-founder of America Online, threw his support behind the pursuit of a comprehensive deal, too.
“At this critical time, I believe the best way to win adoption of high-skilled immigration reforms is to make them a part of a comprehensive immigration reform package that also addresses a path to citizenship for undocumented workers living in our country, border security, and sanctions on employers who break the law,” Steve plans to say during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Ultimately, though, no combination of immigration packages, tax reforms or infrastructure investments can solve entrepreneurs’ biggest concerns coming out of Washington, according to Scott Case, who said the top policy priority should be balancing the budget and finding a long-term solution to repairing the deficit.
“It struck me last night watching the president that literally every decision maker needed to address that issue was in the same room,” Scott said. “If you had an entrepreneur who had all the decision makers he needed to take his business to the next level in the same room, he’d lock the doors and tell everybody they weren’t allowed to leave until they did.”
“So when I think about the speech through an entrepreneurial lens, sure, there were a lot of good nuggets in there that could play out,” he added. “But none of that matters if we can’t get our fiscal house in order and give start-ups enough vision down the line to navigate.”
What did you think of the president’s speech? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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