The world’s most influential technology leaders are raising their voices in support of immigration reform. Executives like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are leading the fight to allow more immigrants with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills to work and live in the United States. These tech giants have expressed how important it is to invite highly skilled immigrants to this country because they could eventually start their own technology businesses, which will boost America’s economy and improve the U.S. presence in the global marketplace.
There has been some criticism of the technology industry’s approach to supporting immigration reform. A campaign called FWD.us, which was introduced by Mark Zuckerberg in April 2013, garnered some negative attention when critics complained that undocumented immigrants were being overlooked as tech companies expressed more of an interest in tech-skilled immigrants. Zuckerberg expressed publicly that the issues facing immigrants in the U.S. don’t just affect his industry, but the whole country. Bill Gates joined the argument for reform by saying in an interview with CNN Money that by preventing immigration reform, the United States is only hurting its own global competitiveness. Gates explained that jobs created by the tech industry would lead to the creation of other jobs, which could help immigrants and the economy alike.
The technology industry in the U.S. relies on highly skilled workers from other countries because oftentimes those immigrants have more relevant skills and experience than American workers. When those tech companies realized Congress had failed to take action on passing immigration reform, many lobbied to increase the number of available H1B visas, which are provided to companies to temporarily employ workers from other countries who have special skills. Currently, the number of H1B visas is capped at 65,000 a year, and an additional 20,000 are made available for those eligible candidates who have graduate-level credentials. The competition for those visas is fierce, and they are often exhausted very quickly, hence the push from big business to provide more.