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Lehi • Sen. Orrin Hatch joined high-tech entrepreneurs Thursday to argue that immigration reform would create more jobs not take them away from Americans by bringing in more top foreign engineers and scientists businesses need for brainpower to expand and be competitive.
Too many worry that allowing more immigrants "would just displace American workers, but that's just a doggone joke," Hatch told a forum sponsored by FWD.us, a political advocacy group formed by such high-tech leaders as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.
The forum was moderated by Joe Green, Zuckerberg's former college roommate who oversees FWD.us. "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix immigration," he said, praising Hatch for voting for the Senate version of immigration reform and working to amend it to allow more H-1B visas for people who attend college in America to remain and work here.
"We are so stupid that we push these people out of America … so they can be competitors with us," Hatch said.
Several Utah high-tech executives told how they need more highly educated immigrants.
"We can't hire fast enough the engineers and scientists we need. We have openings that go unfilled for months," said Rob Clyde, CEO of Adaptive Computing. "I can't tell you how frustrating it is … to see great students come in who want to stay, want to work in Utah, want to work for high-tech companies, and end up having to leave."
Amy Rees Anderson, founder of Rees Capital, which helps guide expansion of high-tech companies, said many Utah firms have had no choice but to outsource their work to India and other countries because not enough engineers are available in the United States.
David Elkington, CEO of InsideSales.com, said too many Americans believe "there is a set number of jobs, and if foreign people take these jobs then I won't get a job. ... That's crap. That's stupid. In my company, the faster I can hire, the faster we grow. The faster we grow, the faster and more people I can hire."
Dave Bateman, CEO of Property Solutions, urged Congress not to block entry of needed highly skilled workers in efforts to keep out undesirable immigrants.
"We can't allow the criminals that shouldn't be coming to rob from us the ability to bring in this tech talent that is going to help us grow our economy," he said.
Hatch said he believes the Senate-passed immigration bill would also clear the House if it were brought up for a vote because almost all Democrats would support it, along with enough Republicans. But he doubts House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would allow that because most House Republicans oppose it.
Hatch complained too many of them worry the bill would create amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"Frankly, we're in a state of de facto amnesty whether we like it or not," Hatch said. He added the Senate bill "takes up to 13 years to get citizenship" for undocumented workers "and it doesn't necessarily approve a lot of people to jump ahead of others who stand in line."
FWD.us has hosted a series of round-tables this summer to push immigration reform. Lawmakers including Reps. Mike Honda, D-Calif., and Bill Foster, D-Ill., have participated in its previous round-tables this year.