The Agenda

The Startup Visa Is Stalled

I’ve gone from being a skeptic about the Startup Visa to being an enthusiast, due to the broadening of the eligibility requirements in the latest version of the proposal. But as Vivek Wadhwa, one of the idea’s staunchest champions, notes at TechCrunch, it appears to be going nowhere:

 

But [White House CTO Aneesh] Chopra dropped a bombshell at the Economist event. He said that the President would only support the Startup Visa in the context of “comprehensive immigration reform”. What this means is that the legislation will be lumped in with toxic debates about illegal immigration and will be held hostage to other interests.

There is reason to be concerned about the plight of the 12 million unskilled workers who are in the U.S. and lack documentation.  But there is a lot of anger and other emotion in these debates. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform say that it will provide “amnesty” to people who broke the law. Supporters argue that there are humanitarian concerns, and that we need these hard-working people to do jobs that Americans don’t want. Regardless of what is right or wrong, there is almost no chance that this contentious issue will be resolved until after the next elections—which means that the Startup Visa could be Dead on Arrival.

Indeed, I received confirmation from a staffer in the office of Senator Lugar (one of the two sponsors of the Startup Visa Act) that without the support of the White House, the legislation has almost no chance of passage. The senator believes very strongly that the Startup Visa will help keep the best and brightest entrepreneurs in America and create jobs for all Americans. He says that “the United States should not wait another day, and certainly not until after November 2012, to improve our global competitiveness”.  And he warns, “If the White House delays, our economy and job creation in America are likely to pay the price”.

It is clear to me that the Startup Visa is an issue that one can logically separate from the larger morass of U.S. immigration policy, moving separately does entail at least some political risk for the president. I obviously think that this is a risk worth taking, but the president evidently disagrees.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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