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Immigration reform is front and center for tech sector — and Obama

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What would you do if the CEO of your startup was stopped at the airport because of a mixup on his travel documents, arrested, shackled, put in a van and shipped off to a jail in another state? Don’t scoff. It just happened just to an unnamed tech exec affiliated with TechStars Boston.

This exec, who was stopped coming into the country at Boston’s Logan Airport because of an inconsistency of his title on a document,  was able to get one message out to a colleague before the chains went on. The tech community network was tapped, a “war room” was assembled where 5 people called lawyers and politicians, said Reed Sturtevant, an entrepreneur and investor recounted the tale at TechStars Boston Demo Day on Wednesday.  “After a lot of work from these people, after two nights in jail, this founder was released and is back at work,” said Sturtevant, obviously emotional about the experience.

Sturtevant then introduced Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum who spoke of the need for real immigration reform, not just for the foreign-born PhDs, engineers, and blue-collar workers affected but also for the sake of law enforcement officials and for the business community that needs fresh ideas and talent at all levels.

Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum speaking at TechStars Boston Demo Day.

Noorani’s organization is trying to build consensus with constituencies that might surprise onlookers — law enforcement agencies and religious organizations. “Our theory is if you hold a Bible, wear a badge or own a business, you want a common-sense solution,” he said.

His organization has won support among southern Baptist churches in Missouri, from anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who wants police to “chase murderers, not landscapers and nannies,”  Noorani said.

This is a timely topic. Earlier in the day, at his first press conference since re-election,  President Barack Obama stressed the need for reform and said the public will is there for it now. The strong turnout of Latino voters has already encouraged some Republicans to reconsider their hardline stance about immigration, he said. (As a refresher,  Republican nominee Mitt Romney had been a pragmatist on immigration before taking a hard right., Romney suggested that illegal residents  “self-deport” as part of the process of gaining legal status.)

In the past, Senator John McCain and former President George W. Bush, also supported immigration reform, evidence that this was not always a partisan issue. Now with so many votes at stake, the president thinks Republicans will be motivated to support change. “We need to seize the moment,” Obama said.

In addition, the president said:

“I am a believer that if you’ve got a PhD in physics, or computer science who wants to stay here, and start a business here, we shouldn’t make it harder for them to stay here, we should try to encourage him to contribute to this society. I think that the agricultural sector, obviously has very specific concerns about making sure that they’ve got a workforce that helps deliver food to our table. So there’re gonna be a bunch of components to it, but I think whatever process we have needs to make sure border security’s strong, needs to deal with employers effectively, needs to provide a pathway for the undocumented here, needs to deal with the DREAM Act kids.”

The Washington Post has the full transcript of the presidential press conference.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user DIAC Images

8 Responses to “Immigration reform is front and center for tech sector — and Obama”

  1. Wayne Molina

    The problem here is that we’re pushing immigration reform ABOVE getting Americans back to work. Does anyone else see anything wrong with that picture? We have thousands of unemployed US citizens who don’t need green cards, or visas, or anything of the sort, yet it seems every few days we have these same puff pieces come out lamenting our immigration system. FOCUS ON AMERICANS FIRST. How about we put some incentives out there to get Americans to start companies, instead of whining how we don’t have enough foreigners coming here. So only foreigners are starting businesses? Nonsense.

    Focus on our own first. Get Americans back to work and THEN let’s worry about immigrants.


    If you want to know why Barack Obama REALLY supports more “high tech” immigration, you should just follow a long held political truism, “Follow the Money.”

    Everybody knows that the high tech giants and Barack Obama have a “quid pro quo” agreement in which the high tech giants provide heavy campaign contributions in exchange for President Obama’s support for work visas that displace US STEM workers.

    These work visas have never been about “highly skilled” workers. These visas are being used for REPLACEMENT workers, visas that helps high tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Apple reduce labor costs by replacing highly skilled, well educated US STEM workers with cheap, entry level, third world workers, primarily from India and Communist China.

    President Obama should be well aware of a 2011 GAO study that found that not only are these workers not highly skilled, 94% are not even “Fully Competent.” The 2011 GAO study found that a mere 6% of the recipients of H-1B visas are “Fully Competent” with 54% of the recipients of H-1B visas being “Entry Level” workers. In fact, many disenfranchised US STEM workers are required to train their replacement in order to receive a severance package.

    US STEM workers are the greatest scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that the world has ever seen. We created this technology! No one will ever know what innovation never occurred because hundreds of thousands of US STEM workers have had to abandon their careers because of this onslaught of entry level, third world workers who have displaced US STEM workers so that the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple can reduce labor costs.


    Grover Norquist has long been a supporter of the H-1B visa program, at least a PAID supporter.

    About a dozen years ago, before Bill Gates chose the “philanthropy” approach of supporting the H-1B visa, Bill Gates hired two of his father’s shady political operatives to do his bidding on Capitol Hill. Gates’ father’s shady political operatives were Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist, and continued until Abramoff was sent to prison for bribing Congressmen.

    Today, Bill Gates pushes his agenda with his faux philanthropy approach, by giving gifts to “think tanks” like the Brookings Institute, who return publish studies with predetermined conclusions that supports Bill Gates financial interests at Microsoft, where Bill Gates aggressively lays off US STEM workers and backfills those positions with cheap, entry level, third world workers primarily from India and Communist China.

  4. Bruce Bolton

    The story you have above and immigration “reform” are two different issues. Officials at the border can be rude, provocative, and unprofessional to both citizens and visitors. There is no excuse for this and is an embarrassment.

    How we deal with those who came here illegally is a different matter that is complex. The so called DREAM act would have passed already if it were just about granting citizenship to kids who came here when they were young. The hold up is whether to legalize their parents. Reform is in the eye of the behold. To some this is amnesty and is discriminatory against those who come from Asia, Africa, and other places not located next or close to the US.

  5. I think the author is a bit confused. Obama was the president; Romney was the candidate. A half-serious writer would check what Obama DID when he was president (for 4 years, in case you missed it) and not reprint what he is saying “that should be done” (by who? Surely he knows he has won by now).

    We need an immigration reform? No kidding. What is he going to DO about it? He doesn’t answer – fine, he’s a politician. But this is a news site. Check into it maybe?

    Gigaom much too often is just a reprint of PR statements. How about you do some research; what has been done? What will be done? We already know what “has” to be done.

    • Well, in a new story you have to recap what is new. I think it merits getting people –including the president — on record as to their plans which then gives you a way to measure their performance. thanks for your note.

      • The question remains – Barack Obama has been a president for 4 years; why not use that to measure his performance? Your comment makes it look as if he just took office.

        Hint: Ask a few immigration lawyers what has been done in the last 4 years.

        – AJ