Skip to main content

House, knowledge economy needs immigrants

By Joe Green, Special to CNN
updated 6:30 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joe Green: Immigration reform heads for tough fight in House after passing in Senate
  • The last major immigration overhaul in the U.S. was in 1986, he says
  • Green says immigrants are group of risk-takers who define America's entrepreneurial ethos
  • Green: Immigrants needed to feed nation's fast-growing knowledge economy

Editor's note: Joe Green is founder and president of FWD.us, an advocacy group created by technology leaders that promotes policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy

(CNN) -- The U.S. Senate, the "world's greatest deliberative body," with a reputation for gridlock that surpasses even that of my native Los Angeles, on Thursday passed an immigration reform bill by a bipartisan majority. Please thank the Senate. As the fight moves to the House of Representatives, it's a good time to reflect on just what this bill will mean for America and to redouble our efforts to pass it.

The last major immigration reform bill was in 1986 under President Reagan. I was 3, my parents had just bought their first computer and the World Wide Web was a dream. Many of today's great tech companies were not yet on the radar screen.

Joe Green
Joe Green

Our country has changed a lot during those 27 years, but not -- so far -- our immigration policy. Suffice it to say, if we can pass our generation's immigration reform, it will be a really big deal.

America's greatest asset has always been its people, drawn here from all over the world. In the 21st century, our economic future depends on immigrants more than ever. The fastest-growing sector of our economy is the knowledge economy, where the main competitive difference is people.

How immigration reform would affect 3 families

In a globalized world where people and businesses have their choice of countries to locate in, continuing to have the best trained, hardest-working and most productive people in the world will keep the United States at the forefront of global competitiveness. We have some huge advantages: the top universities in the world, the top scientific researchers, and -- right alongside these -- our identity as a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants.

At FWD.us, a nonprofit advocacy group, we are entrepreneurs, and we believe that one of the main reasons America is the leading entrepreneurial nation is that we are a nation of immigrants. Leaving behind your home country and everything you know to create a better life for your family is the essence of the risk-taking that characterizes the entrepreneurial ethos.

Can immigration overhaul pass House?
Rocky road to immigration reform
Senate passes immigration reform bill
Pelosi: Immigration overhaul must pass

I think back to my ancestors in the shtetls of Eastern Europe in the 19th century. They had probably never been more than two miles from their village, and got on a steamship to go to a country they had never even seen in a picture, knowing they would never return home.

That is truly putting it all on the line to make a better life. It is not random, who chooses to emigrate, and the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of these immigrants have shaped the character of our country. Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley do not just identify with the experience of computer programmers coming to America to work at tech companies, but with everyone who comes here to make a better life. It's why we are working for comprehensive immigration reform.

There are talented young people in America who were brought here by their parents who now cannot go to college or work because they are undocumented. These DREAMers are just waiting to contribute, and their parents, with the right accountability measures, should be able to join them by coming out of the shadows and contributing fully to their communities.

Opinion: On immigration, GOP offers fear, not ideas

In addition, we know that the best and the brightest come here to study, start companies and create jobs that grow our economy; millions more are caught in limbo navigating a complex and broken system that is totally outdated for a modern economy and modern American families. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform to unlock those contributions and by doing so change millions of lives.

FWD.us has been visiting college graduations, talking with some of the smart young international graduates who have the potential to expand American businesses and create new innovations here. Many are returning home despite job offers in the United States, for one reason -- they can't get visas. A loss for them and a loss for us -- collateral damage of an outdated immigration policy.

Over our history, the United States has often been good at welcoming immigrants. In fact, it's part of what defines America. Reagan said it well, recounting the sentiments in a letter he received from a man before he left office: "You can go live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can't become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American."

Comprehensive immigration reform is a big deal, but it is not a done deal. The House comes next. We are at a hinge moment for America. Don't hold back -- the time is here to be heard as the fight continues to pass meaningful comprehensive immigration reform.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joe Green.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
updated 8:57 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
updated 2:05 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT