Dear Speaker Boehner, House Leadership, and Republican Members of the House of Representatives:
As early investors in some of America’s most innovative and successful technology and life sciences companies, we call on you to reform the outdated immigration laws that are impeding our ability to attract new talent and undermining American competitiveness. Every time the United States turns away another entrepreneur, we put our economic recovery on hold and increase the likelihood that the next Apple, Google, or eBay—along with the revenue and jobs they create—will launch overseas. It is time to reverse this trend and secure America’s future by modernizing our immigration system to bring it in line with the needs of our economy.
From software to biotechnology, communications to IT, venture capital-backed companies dominate America’s rapidly growing high-tech sector. These companies employ more than one in ten US private sector workers and generate revenue equal to more than one-fifth of U.S. gross domestic product. During the worst economic recession in decades, job growth in high-tech STEM occupations held strong, outpacing growth in all other sectors by more than 25 to one between 2001 and 2011. This outsize demand for high-tech workers is expected to continue in part due to the venture capital support many promising high-tech and biotech companies receive at critical early stages in their development.
America’s dynamic high-tech and life sciences sectors owe much of their success to the fact that many of the world’s most promising entrepreneurs and innovators still see the US as a land of opportunity where anything is possible. As recently as 2011, nearly half of the country’s top 50 venture-backed companies were founded by an immigrant, and in almost three-quarters of these firms, immigrants are also key members of the management or product development teams. Moreover, Silicon Valley would not be the world standard for innovation that it is today without immigrants, who founded nearly half of the area’s engineering and technology companies between 2006 and 2012. Nationwide, immigrant-founded firms employed more than half a million workers and generated $63 billion in sales during the same period.
Despite these contributions, the future of American innovation is far from certain. The most common country of origin for an immigrant founder of a top 50 venture-backed company is India, yet a top candidate from India can wait nine years or more for a permanent visa to work in the United States. Faced with these untenable delays, many talented workers take their ideas and skills to other countries, where they create new products and jobs for America’s competitors. This deeply flawed system is already taking a toll on American competitiveness: For the first time in recent years, in 2009 non-U.S. innovators earned more patents than Americans. Contrast that to 1999, when U.S. innovators earned 57 percent of patents worldwide.
Our high-tech sector and the millions of American jobs it supports cannot remain on standby while eager entrepreneurs take their ideas elsewhere. Opening our doors to world’s best and brightest is what made this country great, and it is the only way to ensure that the U.S. continues to be the world leader in technology and innovation going forward. That is why we are joining the Partnership for a New American Economy, incubators, and the rest of the technology sector in the #iCodeImmigration campaign to urge Congress to act now and pass immigration reform. We must address the needs of our growing tech sector and ensure that America can attract the talented innovators and ideas that will keep our economy booming and creating jobs for years to come.