Republican lawmakers on Thursday signaled a willingness to tackle immigration reform measures, specifically those relating to skilled worker visas.
Led by Virginia’s Bob Goodlatte, the House Republican Technology Working Group released its list of top technology concerns relating to economic growth in the U.S.
Under the banner of “Ensuring American Access to the Best Workers,” the group said it would “examine current visa and immigration laws to make sure we attract and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world.”
In addition to skilled workers, the group announced that it would also focus on access to network spectrum, cyber security issues, intellectual property protections, fair trade agreements, tax code and regulation reform.
While the GOP has historically championed free trade, tax reform and decreased regulation, the group’s embrace of immigration — however limited — was hailed by reform groups as a step forward.
Rebecca Peters, the director and counsel for legislative affairs at the American Council on International Personnel, told Huff Post that the GOP agenda was “very encouraging.” Her business advocacy group sees the recent bipartisan political movement — including the president’s immigration speech in El Paso, Texas, last month and the 2010 Republican plan for job creation — as evidence that reform might be on the horizon.
Compete America Executive Director Scott Corley, whose advocacy group focuses on immigration concerns for skilled workers, said in a statement, “We applaud the House Republican Technology Working Group for emphasizing the link between access to top talent and U.S. job creation. We encourage the growing list of supporters on both sides of the aisle to turn their talk into action.”
This Republican embrace of high-skilled immigrants partially reflects a stronger relationship between the GOP and the tech world. Both sides have dispatched emissaries in recent months: Tech companies, including Google, have ramped up their lobbying efforts in Washington, while Republican congress members have lately sought an audience with high tech denizens.
Retaining skilled workers and reforming intellectual property protections are both issues of concern to tech leaders and Republican leaders are taking notice.
“A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk to employers and employees out in Silicon Valley,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “They are on the frontlines of our country’s efforts to create new jobs, and they are concerned about the policies they are seeing coming out of Washington.”
Boehner has been well-compensated for the increased attention he’s paid to the tech world. In his visit to Northern California last month, he was estimated to have raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars at a Silicon Valley fundraiser in the home of HP executive Michael Holsten. Among those he met with were representatives from interest groups representing some of the Valley’s brightest lights, including Apple, Netflix and eBay.