Triangle business leaders call for immigration reform

Posted July 9, 2014

— 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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  • TimeWillTell Jul 10, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Oh please. Goodnight is one of the few LEADERS in the high-tech industry. I watched him literally build SAS from a 3-person team in an NCSU office to what it is today. During the tech industry implosion in 2000, SAS continued to grow and he continued to provide benefits well above industry norms to his employees. He attributed SAS's success to his employees and rewarded them accordingly. When he tried taking the company public, the people he hired to guide the process tried dragging him down the usual path of cutting benefits and maximizing profits. He threw the lot of them out on their backsides and SAS remains privately held.

    SAS has a culture that's not for everyone. But your comments about Goodnight are utterly baseless.

  • TimeWillTell Jul 10, 2014

    Based on the content of most of these posts, I am confident that their authors do not work in high-tech jobs with foreign co-workers.

    I have co-workers from three non-European countries. All came here legally. Two of the three have earned their US citizenship, a process which took YEARS to complete. Two earned masters degrees in Computer Science while working full time and raising children.

    Several co-workers and I recently represented our company at a computer science career fair at a local university. Of the dozens of students that came to our booth, less than half-dozen were Americans. ALL of the rest were Asian. Of that very few Americans who approached us, two walked away with invitations to call a hiring manager directly.

    I'll say this straight out: in general, the Asian students revere education and have a higher work ethic than Americans. American kids with the STEM education and strong work ethic get snapped up fast, and there aren't enough of them.

  • davidhartman Jul 10, 2014

    Oh please Goodnight, you've worn-out your welcome here; go somewhere else & pedal your baseless liberal froth while destroying other cities with your rampant uncontrolled growth courtesy of Preston Development.

    No high-tech employers want H1B Visa holders now because there simply isn't demand like there was during the dot com boom. Supply & demand which has nothing whatsoever to do with 'immigration reform'.

  • James McFetridge Jul 10, 2014
    user avatar

    We just need something that is fair. Some people pay a hefty price and wait an exceptionally long time to become US citizens through the system in place, and even to be able to get in line is not an easy feat. We need a better system for the persons attempting to follow the law, and this system is hindered by cheaters who jump the fence.

  • Enough is Enough People Jul 10, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Nice attempt at humor, but when it comes to immigration, nothing has changed so you do actually have a point for once.

  • Hecate Jul 10, 2014

    Instead of giving money to foreigners who come to our country to get a subsidized education, then go home to their own countries with our information and technology, why don't we cut some of that aid and put it into our own failing US public school system, so our own kids can get a leg up with the new technology and teachers who actually want to teach because they get paid a decent salary??? That is investing in your own country... something that the US has forgotten. By 2016 we will be the United States of China.....

  • mike275132 Jul 10, 2014

    "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."

    Supply and Demand

    So Goodnight et al want more Immigration to lower the wages at both the low skilled jobs and high skilled jobs at the expense of US Citizens.

    At a time when over 1 Million High Tech US Citizen workers are unemployed, Over 600K H1B Tech Foreigners are in the US doing their jobs, add to this the "Outsourcing" of Tech jobs to India , China etc. it has become apparent just like with Illegal immigrants from Mexico and South America in low wage jobs. Companies have decided that to now import workers to lower the wages of high skilled workers.

    The Open Borders and Amnesty policy is working fine....

  • Jeff Johnson Jul 10, 2014
    user avatar

    All is lost, the liberal left and business oppose US Citizens. I've worked for a Fortune 100 company for many years and watched as H-1B visa abusers replace competent and capable US citizens, then show favouritism to their fellow countrymen. Anyone who believes this will end well for traditional US citizens is blind. Heritage is something other countries can enjoy. It will take a catastrophic event to stop this invasion backed by self serving people and corporations.

  • Terry Watts Jul 10, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I view it as a triumph of our post-graduate university system...

  • ohmygosh Jul 10, 2014

    Don't forget that foreign grad students in many cases are subsidized by their country to go to grad school. They should be going back to their country of origin after completing their degree. In the US, for many potential grad students, it's unaffordable. Remember the "space race era" where the US provided scholarships and grants to attend engineering and scientific college and grad schools. There was no shortage of US grad students then.