Obama on Immigration: Let's Move Into the 21st Century
President Obama announced a three-point proposal Tuesday for an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in a speech at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, making several nods towards foreign-born entrepreneurs along the way.
The President pointed out three principles in his strategy to overhaul the current system, including the continued strengthening of security along U.S. borders, creating a path to citizenship for the 11 million individuals here illegally, and bringing the American legal immigration system "into the 21st century."
Beef Up Security
The President said that illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent today from their peak in 2000, thanks to beefed up security and “more boots on the ground.”
He also pointed to the business side of enforcement, proposing the implementation of a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone’s employment status. “And if they still knowingly hire undocumented workers, then we need to ramp up the penalties,” he said.
Path to Citizenship
In order to deal with immigrants who are here illegally, the President said, it must be clear that there is a pathway to citizenship. This would include passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, “and then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally.”
The process, he said, would be fair but not quick.
Attract and Keep Talent
Finally, the president spoke about the need to reconfigure the legal system so that foreign-born students educated in the U.S. have an easier time staying. He said:
"Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities. They’re earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country."
The President referenced several high-tech start-ups founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs in his speech, including Google (co-founded by Russian-born Sergey Brin), Yahoo (with Taiwanese-born co-founder Jerry Yang), and Instagram (co-founded by Mike Krieger, from Brazil). He said that immigrants started one in four high-tech startups in America, and that one in four small business owners are immigrants.
He said, "If you’re a foreign student who wants to pursue a career in science or technology, or a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start a business with the backing of American investors, we should help you do that here. Because if you succeed, you’ll create American businesses."
JULIE STRICKLAND | Staff Writer
Julie Strickland covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City.