Senate immigration bill’s passage draws cheers from startup, small business leaders


The Senate on Thursday approved a comprehensive immigration bill, nearly six months after deliberations on the proposal began.

Senate approval of a comprehensive immigration reform bill was met with cheers on Thursday from small business and startup leaders, some of whom have lobbied for years for some of the proposed changes.

The Senate approved the bill 68 to 32, just shy of the 70-vote benchmark supporters had targeted in an effort to force the House to take up the legislation. Many Republicans in the lower chamber have not warmed to the idea of tackling refrom in one sweeping piece of legislation, which could block the bill’s path to the White House.

The legislation would increase border security and provide a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. Of greater concerns to some in the business community, though, it would increase number of visas for highly educated foreigners (a critical concern for many startups and technology firms) and create a new class of visa for low-skill workers (an important issue for agricultural and service-related businesses).

In addition, the proposal calls for new “startup visas” that would allow entrepreneurs from around the world to start firms and create jobs in the United States.

Small business and startup lobbyists have pushed for some of those changes for several years, ramping up their efforts in recent months as the bill started gaining traction in the Senate. Here is a look at some of their reactions to its passage on Thursday:

Steve Case, CEO of Revolution LLC and Startup American chairman: “This important step demonstrates the capacity of our elected leaders in Washington to come together across party lines to advance what is clearly in our nation’s best interest – an immigration system that meets the needs of our 21st century economy. The Senate’s bill will attract the world’s best entrepreneurs and innovators and be a key ingredient to sustaining America’s long-term competitive edge.”

Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association: “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 works to address many of the current and future labor needs of our businesses, while offering opportunity to improve upon the bill in some key areas, such as a better e-verify program and strengthened w-visa language, in a conference committee,” later adding that “immigrants add value as essential workers, new customers and job-creating entrepreneurs.

Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Ore. and Main Street Alliance exec. committee member: “I want to thank those 68 Senators for their leadership in today’s vote for immigration reform. Immigration reform holds great potential to strengthen small businesses, boost our economy and strengthen the country’s bottom line. The Senate’s bipartisan vote brings that potential even closer to reality. Now it’s the House’s turn.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: This bill will allow us to attract the talented and hard-working people who want to come and stay here to work and start businesses – and help our economy grow. A strong bi-partisan group of Senators voted to pass the bill because they understand that fixing our broken immigration system is critical to our economic future.

Katherine Lugar, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association:“The lodging industry has long pressed for reforms that enhance national security, provide employers an efficient system to verify workers, allow greater access to temporary workers when no Americans are available, and create a process to address those undocumented workers already in the country. The bill passed today does just that.”

“The passage of the comprehensive immigration bill is a testament to the potential for both parties to collaborate around our nation’s most pressing legislation. It also reflects a coming of age for political activism, where the individual’s voice can be heard via the effective usage of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Most of all, it symbolizes our willingness to share our nation with those who seek to call it home for generations to come.”

Somesh Dash, principal at Institutional Venture Partners: “The passage of the comprehensive immigration bill is a testament to the potential for both parties to collaborate around our nation’s most pressing legislation. It also reflects a coming of age for political activism, where the individual’s voice can be heard via the effective usage of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Most of all, it symbolizes our willingness to share our nation with those who seek to call it home for generations to come.”

Related: One small business group raises ‘red flags’ in the immigration bill

Follow On Small Business and J.D. Harrison .

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.
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