Although the topic of immigration reform has been a feature of our political landscape much of the past decade, an element of this issue often overlooked is the substantial number of jobs created by immigrant entrepreneurs.
ACT’s Chairman, Mike Sax, was born a Belgian and moved to the states in the 1990s because our country offered the best environment to launch a tech company. His story is far from unique. A quarter of Silicon Valley startups are founded by skilled immigrants. These are people who leave their home countries to start companies that create jobs in the U.S.
Unfortunately, many are finding it difficult to navigate our immigration system. They would like to stay, and keep the jobs they created in this country, but their future status is uncertain. The conditions imposed on foreign entrepreneurs and business owners are so restrictive that many are simply closing shop, laying off workers, and returning to their home countries.
Duke University professor and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa recently featured in an NBC evening news report on this issue and expounded upon it at TechCrunch. After immigrating here, the companies he founded created over 1,200 jobs. Notable in his piece are the experiences from innovative entrepreneurs who are weary from battling ill-informed immigration authorities just to stay in the country.
Rapportive co-founder, Martin Kleppmann, who came to the U.S. from Germany, told Brokaw “In our case — we got a beautiful letter from the immigration service asking to prove that we had enough warehouse space to store our software inventory. We don’t even have boxes of software, it’s all on the Internet.”
Sakina Arsiwala, from Mumbai, India, struggled for years to get a visa so that she could work with her husband Naveen Koorakula on their social-networking startup, Campfire Labs. “Why deal with all this, you know, old school immigration systems, just go where you’re wanted”, said Arsiwala, who formerly headed YouTube’s international operations.
The U.S. does a great job educating the world’s software engineers. It makes little sense to force them to leave our country and take the jobs they create with them.