Opinion

National immigration reform could benefit Virginia

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Print this page by Patrick Hope

What is the American dream?  To live fully, to prosper, and to succeed.

Immigrants — and immigration — are at the core of this dream. Not only does good immigration policy open up new opportunities for millions of people from around the world, but it helps drive the American economy and creates jobs in technology, housing and small business.

If passed, a new U.S. Senate bill, the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, would strengthen America’s economic competitiveness, promote job growth and help to close the skills gap facing this country. The bill,  known as I-Squared, co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, also could accelerate the growth of Virginia’s economy, specifically in the technology industry. It would help technology based companies in the short term by expanding access to H1-B visas so foreign talent can be hired to fill jobs that remain unfilled by Americans. And in the long term, the bill will use the funds companies pay to sponsor these visas to create a funding stream meant to improve the quality of education for American students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The number of STEM jobs in Virginia is projected to increase by 30 percent from 2008-2018, compared with 13.5 percent job growth for Virginia’s economy as a whole. Among the top 10 jobs in Virginia with the highest projected growth rates during the next decade, half are in STEM fields. STEM jobs also are among the highest-paying jobs in the private sector, yet we simply to not have enough qualified graduates to fill them.

The time is right for immigration reform. Lawmakers in Congress should remember to include I-Squared in any comprehensive immigration reform package they create.

Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat from Arlington, represents the 47th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.


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