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 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT