NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Silicon Valley's latest cause celebre is the advocacy for immigrationreform. All parties in Washington, D.C. are also advocating immigrationreform.The problem is this: What one person means by "immigration reform" isnot what the other side means. The people who will actually have tovote on immigration reform mean two very different things. It's a classic case of two sides using one word -- reform -- to meantwo different things. Let me illustrate with an analogy. If Ron Paul were to debate Barack Obama about "tax reform" both wouldclaim to be in favor of tax reform. Who wouldn't? But what each ofthem means by "reform" would be the total opposite of the other. What Ron Paul means by tax "reform" is to abolish taxes and insteadfund a constitutional, pre-1913 federal government primarily byvoluntary charity or small user fees. What President Obama would mean bytax "reform" is that in principle 100% of all income should be taxed,except for what the government charitably allows you to keep. In other words, as the two parties both profess their strongestsupport for "reform" they mean the exact opposite of the other.Same thing with immigration reform, mostly.
Almost every famous person in the Silicon Valley food chain -- fromCEOs to venture capitalists -- are pushing for "immigration reform."So what do most of them mean by that? Most technology companies want to expand their pool of engineers thatthey can hire -- here in the U.S. as well as around the world. As itstands it's hard to get a work visa for a foreign worker to move tothe U.S., especially from countries such as India and China. A familiar example of how this works is that a graduate of a top U.S.university in computer science either starts a company or takes anengineering job with a Silicon Valley company. However, before longhe or she is unable to stay in the U.S., so he or she returns home toChina or India to run his or her company or work over there. The U.S. is likely to benefit from a software or hardware engineersettling in the U.S. in order to work or start a company. This personwill likely contribute far more in GDP than he or she will be on thepublic dole. The education is already paid for. This immigrant isthe opposite of a welfare case.
This latter part has nothing to do with Silicon Valley and it'swhere all the contention is. It is why this bill is being blockedin the House of Representatives. In order for Silicon Valley to get what it wants on immigrationreform it should insist these two completely different parts ofimmigration reform get split into two separate bills with two separatevotes:
- Work visas for people who have advanced degrees in relevant areasof engineering, or are otherwise well-recognized computer geniuses.Basically, if you graduate in computer science from StanfordUniversity, you get to stay in the U.S. for -- at a minimum -- many,many years. Also, if you bring significant investment capital to the U.S. or areable to attract some minimum level of investment capital, you can geta long-term work (startup) visa. Either way, you will contribute toGDP and employment far more than you drain. Legalization of those who already made it into the U.S. illegally,almost all of whom have little or no education. This bill would bevoted upon separately. It has essentially nothing to do with SiliconValley.