Florida is a land of immigrants. Today, nearly 4 million Floridians were born in other countries, representing the fourth-largest immigrant population in the United States.
Though we have many immigrants in our state, however, many of our businesses still struggle to access the skilled labor they need to achieve initial or ongoing success, which has a direct impact on our state economy and overall jobs situation. Of course, immigration and border security are on everyone’s minds these days. But it is important to realize that we can have an immigration system that keeps us safe, protects American jobs, and still allows American firms to recruit the best and brightest immigrants to come here to work and build businesses.
When highly skilled immigrants come to the United States — especially to places like Florida — they tend to stay. Many bring or start families, as well as create businesses that drive growth and innovation, increase wages, and create jobs in our communities. Instead of making it harder for such immigrants to come to here, we should be actively recruiting them and — while making sure none is a threat — making it as easy as possible for them to bring their skills to our economy.
This is vital for our future, because there is very serious competition across the globe to find and recruit the most talented people in the world. If the U.S. doesn’t act decisively, we will lose this competition — and our economy and native-born workers will lose out as well. There are three primary ways we can better compete in this global race for talent: make Green Cards easier to obtain, create a new category of visas to encourage the best foreign-born entrepreneurs and innovators to start businesses in the U.S., and reform and expand the nation’s H-1B visa program, which focuses on high-skilled immigrants.
It is up to Congress to fix our immigration system, but thus far, they have been unable to do so. If they cannot secure meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, they must take swift action on the many issues surrounding skilled immigrants and the H-1B program. To make the H-1B program work as intended, we must raise the extremely low cap on the number of H-1B visas issued each year.
We are leaving a lot of talented entrepreneurs, inventors and businesspeople out in the proverbial cold — here in Florida, we’d like to welcome them to the very real warmth offered by our people and state, and the many opportunities offered by our economy. It’s time for Congress to stop stalling and finally reform and expand the H-1B visa program.
ROLY MARANTE, TALLAHASSEE
Editor’s note: Roly Marante is chairman of government relations for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.