Without Immigration Progress, America Loses Big

(CNN) After months of delay and distraction, Washington is finally grappling with the question of immigration reform, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in particular.

The struggle has many people talking about a potential government shutdown.

DACA employees boost our economy. According to the Center for American Progress, 91% are employed and 75% of America’s biggest companies count a DACA recipient among their employees. If the program ends, almost 700,000 workers would no longer be able to add to our economy or tax revenue.

That’s why major tech leaders, including Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook, have asked Congress to defend DACA workers. We need these immigrant innovators. Without them, the US tech industry — which has created 4.7 million jobs and $1.9 trillion in output in 2015 alone, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) — will suffer.

Even if the White House and Congress manage to come to a consensus on DACA, the basic problems plaguing our immigration system remain. The system is broken for both illegal and legal immigration. Our H-1B visa cap is far too low: only 85,000 visas are available, and applications hit that cap within four days of the system opening.

The failures of our system are not lost on other countries. A Canadian private-sector firm is snapping up US startups. France has developed a visa expressly for tech innovators. Britain has increased its Exceptional Talent visas by 100%. The competition for top talent is stiff — and it will only grow more intense in the years to come.

From a business perspective, especially in technology fields, this means that the United States is essentially training the world’s best and brightest at our universities and then forcing them to move to other countries to develop innovative products and services. No matter how ingenious an innovator might be or how groundbreaking her concept, she’ll be summarily forced to leave if she doesn’t win the visa lottery.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, 48% of international students want to remain in the US after graduation. These students, hoping for gainful employment and opportunity, note job prospects as their reason for wanting to stay.

By Gary Shapiro for CNN
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