Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Explaining the Startup Act 2.0

Photo by yuan2003/Flickr (Creative Commons)

What is the cleverly-named legislation called Startup Act 2.0? The bill being announced tomorrow by members of Congress is the House version of a Senate bill introduced last month, which simply put makes it easier for foreigners who obtain advanced degrees to stay in the United States.

The idea is to make it easier for these individuals to stay after finishing their studies and start businesses, rather than joining the exodus of foreign graduates who head back after their visas expire to their home countries to work, or who (along with some American-born children of immigrants) are drawn to jobs in the burgeoning tech sectors of countries like India and China.

The two bills target graduates in the fields of what's referred to as STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Recent research has suggested that within six years, should educational trends continue, U.S. businesses will be faced with a shortage of native STEM-trained graduates coming out of American universities. While not everyone agrees, according to one recent report, as STEM-related jobs increase, by 2018 the U.S. is projected to have a shortfall of around 230,000 qualified advanced degree holders in STEM fields to fill them.

Here's the general problem,  as explained in a report released in May by a bipartisan business and policy-oriented group called Partnership for a New American Economy, which compared U.S. employment-based immigration policies with those of other nations:

In recent years...US immigration laws have failed to keep pace with the country’s changing economic needs. Artificially low limits on the number of visas and serious bureaucratic obstacles pre- vent employers from hiring the people they need – and drive entrepreneurs to other countries, who are quick to welcome them.

In fact, other nations have witnessed the importance of immigrants to the American economy and are employing aggressive recruitment strategies to attract the key high- and low-skilled workers their economies need to compete and grow. In the 21st century global economy, the stakes in the global talent rush are only increasing, and our loss has been the rest of the world’s gain.

One other interesting thing about Startup Act 2.0, in both the House and Senate, is that the legislators behind the bills are bipartisan coalitions, almost unheard of today as immigration politics have become increasingly polarized. The legislators behind the House bill include three Democrats, including Loretta Sanchez of Orange County, and four Republicans.