WASHINGTON – Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) recently introduced legislation that would expand permanent residency options for immigrant entrepreneurs who create jobs and secure revenue streams.
The Jobs in America Act allows foreign entrepreneurs and immigrant graduates of American universities the option of extending their visas by two years and providing an eventual path for legal permanent residency.
“To protect America’s position as a global leader in innovation, tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need every opportunity to build and develop their ideas on American soil,” Sinema said in a statement. “The Jobs in America Act creates high-wage jobs in the United States, spurs private investment and economic growth, and ensures America remains globally competitive.”
The legislation has bipartisan support from Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and Mia Love (R-Utah).
Matthew O’Brien, director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, in a recent interview with PJ Media spoke out against the legislation, which he views as redundant given the array of options presently offered to foreign entrepreneurs. Programs like Sinema’s, he said, sound great on paper, but the reality is that they end up attracting opportunists looking to buy their way into the U.S. quickly and easily, while their supposed business ventures take a back seat.
“We think the reputation of the United States speaks for itself. People who truly have money and want to invest it in the United States, if they are outside the U.S., will find a way to do it, and there are enough visa categories,” he said.
O’Brien listed a number of options for foreigners including the E-1 Treaty Traders program, L-1 Visa Intracompany Transferee program, the EB-5 visa and EB-1 Extraordinary Ability petitions.
O’Brien said that the Obama administration had ideas similar to Sinema’s when it started the global entrepreneurs and residence program, which allows universities to continue employing graduate students on H-1B visas while they are mentored by successful entrepreneurs.
“The U.S. has no business doing investment for immigration status visas because they result in people putting the immigration status first,” he said. “And most of the time they just wind up being a sham, where people like the EB5 regional centers get wealthy, but it doesn’t particularly help the communities that are supposedly being addressed.”
Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, offered a different point of view – his party’s support for an open immigration policy. He noted that there are already visa programs for foreign entrepreneurs who can invest a certain amount of money, but he supports any piece of legislation that encourages economic expansion for peaceful individuals looking to establish themselves in the U.S.
“Anything we can do to encourage people to come here and invest their time and their energy and their money in building our economy sounds like a good idea to me,” Sarwark said. “It’s a lot better to have something structured like this where you’re encouraging people to immigrate, rather than kind of wasting time and money on trying to build walls and discourage people from helping build our country.”
He suggested the U.S. seize opportunities with foreign entrepreneurs, rather than watch them successfully build their businesses elsewhere.
What would give the party pause, he said, is legislation that picks and chooses which entrepreneurial efforts to support and which ones to deny – basically “handing out favors for people who are politically connected.”