Tech companies leapt into the immigration reform fray

As Congress prepares for budget battles and a vote over military intervention in Syria, a coalition of technology associations has been working to sell immigration reform, arguing it will boost the U.S. economy.

The Technology CEO Council, an advocacy organization representing major U.S. technology companies, launched a campaign mid-August to promote immigration reform to encourage the recruitment and retainment of high-skilled labor — a message that the technology sector has broadcasted for some time.

The campaign included an accompanying video with a voice over of President Ronald Reagan speaking about the greatness of America making it a land of opportunity for immigrants.

Pitching figures from the Social Security Administration that immigration reform will create 3 million jobs, and a Congressional Budget Office estimate that reform could reduce the federal deficit by $2 trillion, technology companies are hoping members of Congress will see the issue as economic opportunity for the nation.

The coalition includes groups like TechNet, Information Technology Industry Council, Computer Electronics Association and the Internet Association. Other groups involved in the coalition include the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Semiconductor Industry Association.

Christopher Padilla, Vice President of Governmental Programs at IBM, told the Daily Caller that he thought that it was remarkable that the tech community, which he acknowledged “can sometimes be a fractious industry,” is “100 percent behind this issue.”

Padilla said that it was important to give green cards to immigrants who come to the U.S. to earn degrees in science and technology.

“I’d rather see that happen than have us train people who then go work for our foreign competitors in China or Europe or elsewhere,” said Padilla.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, told the Daily Caller that the tech industry has been “a pretty consistent voice on the policy need for better immigration strategy.”

“They don’t have any sort of political interest in the Hispanic vote or all of these other issues that get bandied about,” said Holtz-Eakin. “They’re worried about the nuts and bolts of a competitive economy.”

“They’re very mobile in their markets, they’re quite cognizant of our inability to compete, and they want to fix it,” he said.

The technology industry’s support for immigration reform has been met with skepticism, particularly because some critics perceive the industry as attempting to hire cheap imported labor instead of Americans.

Holtz-Eakin, however, called that argument “conceptually misplaced,” stating that global competition has already placed pressure on wages.

“It’s also true if you look at the studies, you just don’t find the support for that kind of an argument,” he said, arguing that immigration either has no impact on domestic wages or it improves domestic wages.

The battle addressing the nation’s immigration woes isn’t expected to take center-stage for the House until the end of October and into early November. By then, the coalition will be entering a new phase of a process that has taken up a large part of the year.

The coalition won’t, however, be alone; their counterparts at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s, as well as the companies represented by TechVoice, TECNA, and CompTIA have also been hard at work during the recess to bring about a positive conclusion to the debate for the pro-immigration reform crowd.

Opposition to pro-immigration reform forces, according to a recent report by the Atlantic, also seems to have fizzled in the August heat.

Immigration reform is also a priority for top Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, who recently signaled that an immigration bill would be an achievement on par for the administration as Obamacare.

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