Immigration reform looks like it might really happen in US President Barack Obama's second term. Many have tried before and failed; few ever attempted a total overhaul of a very broken system. But amid sudden political momentum, what if the laws governing foreigners' rights to live and work on US shores could be rewritten? Who would get to stay? How tight should borders be? Which countries and industries benefit? Quartz, National Journal's sister site on global finance, has been asking lawyers, advocates, and business leaders what a sound migration policy in America would look like.
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For the first time in recent memory, immigration reform in the US appears to be a political slam dunk. Republicans smarting from a poor showing among all minorities publicly acknowledge they need to embrace Latinos and Asians to win the White House. An emboldened Barack Obama is chafing to push forward comprehensive changes to the immigration policy. Much of the noise around this issue has focused on dealing with the millions of undocumented workers.
But perhaps a more pressing issue (as I and Vivek Wadhwa argue in our book, "The Immigrant Exodus") is reforming skilled immigration rules to allow more high-powered aliens to start companies, work, do research, and remain in America. A 2011 study found that nearly half of the Top 50 venture-backed companies in the U.S. had immigrants on the founding or top management teams. Another study estimated that 25% of publicly traded companies founded between 1990 and 2005, that had also received venture backing, had immigrant founders. A 2007 research project by Vivek Wadhwa and AnnaLee Saxenian found that 52% of science and technology companies in Silicon Valley, the global center of tech innovation, had at least one immigrant founder.