WASHINGTON – In response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on the H-1B visa program, ITI issued a statement from President and CEO Dean Garfield on the importance to US innovation of high-skilled immigrants.

“We all have a responsibility to stitch together the economic fabric of our society and ensure the gains of growth are broadly shared and enjoyed among all Americans, and the tech industry is committed to doing exactly that,” Garfield said. “That is why tech companies are working every day to hire Americans to fill the more than 500,000 open tech jobs, spending tens of millions on workforce training programs, and tapping the talents of immigrants who we all know contribute to the economy and make our country stronger. To achieve our goals for America we must be prepared to follow up the review proposed by the president with the hard work of tackling our failing immigration system, and reforming our outdated workforce and education approaches. Tech stands ready to go to work.”

ITI noted technology companies face a real need for talent or they face losing their edge to competitors overseas. 2017 marked the fifth consecutive year in which the H1-B visa cap of 85,000 was reached within days of US Customs and Immigration Services accepting petitions for the upcoming year, demonstrating both the necessity and limitations of the current immigration system.

Recent studies by the New American Economy found there were more than 3.3 million open science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs posted online last year alone. Moreover, today, it is estimated there are more than half a million open computing jobs across the country. However, in 2015, US universities only graduated 92,172 computer scientists and 24% of those were foreign-born students. The number of American citizens and permanent resident students pursuing graduate degrees in science and engineering fields fell 6.3% between 2010 and 2013.

This is not just a challenge for companies in Silicon Valley, said Garfield. The situation is direr for employers in rural states who confront a much larger STEM shortage than the rest of the country. Many ITI member companies are already actively working to reverse the US STEM shortage, investing tens of millions of dollars in programs designed to help educate and prepare students, and to train American workers with the skills they need to pursue tech jobs. Still, the tech industry cannot wait because innovation moves at the speed of light, and to keep advancing and competing around the world, the tech industry relies on H-1B visas to help fill immediate vacancies in the US instead of overseas, he continued.

We need to recognize the value H-1B employees contribute through their ingenuity to our innovation ecosystem; they help innovate and grow America’s tech economy. In fact, it’s been estimated that more than 230,000 more computer jobs would have been created for US workers if the talented people denied H-1B visas in 2007 and 2008 had been welcomed to innovate here in our country, instead of by our competitors overseas. Moreover, half of the 87 startup companies valued at more than $1 billion in the US were founded by at least one immigrant, many of whom first came to the country on H-1B visas, and each of these companies now employs on average 760 US workers, said Garfield.

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