Triangle business leaders call for immigration reform

Posted July 9, 2014

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— Several Triangle business leaders participated in the National Day of Action on Wednesday, as groups nationwide called on Congress to push forward on stalled immigration reform measures.

Although farming and construction are heavily dependent on immigrant labor, business leaders said fields such as biotechnology and engineering also suffer because of U.S. immigration rules.

Foreign students make up 55 percent of full-time graduate students in the U.S. in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a report from the Council of Graduate Schools, but many of them aren't eligible to stay in the country after graduation and work here.

"If we don't capture the best and brightest and we let them go back overseas, then that's where the innovation is going to occur," said Jim Goodnight, co-founder of Cary software developer SAS Institute.

Goodnight and other local business leaders said the U.S. needs a plan that seals the borders and expands visas for farm workers and highly skilled employees.

"Now's the time to take action, and simply kicking the can down the road is not a solution," said Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. caps the number of visas for skilled workers at 85,000 a year.

"Of those, 20,000 are set aside for foreign students with advanced degrees from U.S. universities," Goodnight said.

Many Triangle companies complain there is a gap in filling specialized jobs in science and technology. Goodnight said it sometimes takes up to two years to fill a position.

"It's about jobs and economic growth, opportunity and how to keep America competitive," Morrisville Town Councilman Steve Rao said of the importance of immigration reform.


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  • notkidding Jul 9, 2014

    "Foreign students make up 55 percent of full-time graduate students in the U.S. in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a report from the Council of Graduate Schools"
    Shame on our business "leaders" for supporting this national tragedy. Let's educate the US kids and let the foreigners stay in their own countries.

  • unblankenbelievable Jul 9, 2014

    Funny how they keep leaving out the most important word. ILLEGAL!

  • miseem Jul 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Illegal was not used in this article because it did not apply. They were not talking about illegal immigration.

  • AConservativePerson Jul 9, 2014

    The only immigration reform that needs to be done is to have the illegal immigrants deported and our laws enforced.

  • Gary_too Jul 10, 2014

    Heaven forbid they will have to hire Americans instead of those low priced illegals.

  • derwillemacht Jul 10, 2014

    Breaking news. Big business wants cheap labor!

  • hppyhourhero Jul 10, 2014

    AConservativePerson: "our laws enforced."...So when is the crack down on the people who hire these illegal people going to start?

  • archmaker Jul 10, 2014

    Goodnight can't have it both ways. He will either continue giving money to "no tax Republicans" or will need to support those for immigration reform. They don't come in the same package.

  • dlnorri Jul 10, 2014

    these guys are supposed to be leaders but they appear to be a bit clueless. (a) The number of farm workers allowed to enter legally under current law is unlimited. Farmers choose to use illegals because they are cheaper. Meaning legal farm workers can not get work. The current allowances of 80K proffession and 60K skilled appear to be more than enough to keep wages in technical fields suppresed. the bill before congress just creates more laws that will be subjectively and selectively un-enforced. If they call for severe fines on enablers (employers and used of subcontractors that employee illegals) they would be calling for effective reform of our illegal problem (we do not have an immigration problem, we have a criminal problem).

  • foodstamptrader Jul 10, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Sure they do. Goodnight is talking about immigration reform that secures our borders and provides a path to legal residency for the best and brightest, who can offer valuable skills and contribute to America's growth. He is not in favor of the leftist plan to find a way to offer amnesty to anyone that can crawl across our border and begin to feed off the US taxpayer.

    We need selective immigration laws. Those that have skills and education we need should be welcomed. Those that simply come to be parasitic criminals need to go.