Obama Turns His Back On Silicon Valley

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During the 2012 presidential campaign, Silicon Valley tech businesses overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama with their dollars.

Here's a table, from Nate Silver:

Then, during election day, Obama won the Bay Area with an epic 49 point margin.

Here's another Silver chart:

So, you'd think that these companies (and the voters who work for them) would have the newly re-elected Obama administration's ear, right?

Maybe not.

In mid-September, dozens of tech companies, including Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, and Xerox, signed a letter asking Congress and the President to pass a bill called the STEM Jobs Act of 2012.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. The purpose of the bill is to increase the number of visas available by up to 55,000 for immigrants with advanced degrees in those fields.

Yesterday, President Obama put out a statement saying he will not support the bill.

The reason: In exchange for making thousands of new visas available to STEM workers, the STEM Act abolishes another visa program, called the "Diversity Visa" program, which distributes 50,000 visas through a lottery to a pool of nearly 15 million applicants with high school degrees.

The Diversity Visa program drives some people completely bonkers.

Yale law school professor Peter Schuck, who describes himself as "militantly moderate," is one such person.

In a 2011 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, he called for a swap similar to the one proposed in the STEM Act.

First Schuck mocks the program for its lottery process, which, in 2011, resulted in 50,000 people being told they got visas when in fact they had not.

Then he hits a bigger point, arguing that the Diversity Visa program "imposes a cost — an opportunity cost."

"The fact that some of the 50,000 lottery winners will turn out to be desirable immigrants is an accident, not a policy."

" The solution is straightforward: Abolish the program and use those 50,000 visas (or more) to promote carefully defined national interests, particularly in more high-skilled immigrants who, many studies show, produce jobs, innovation and new businesses."

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that highly-skilled immigrants contribute heavily to Silicon Valley.

Check out this chart from Vivek Wadhwa at Duke University, showing that 52.4 percent of Silicon Valley firms are founded by immigrants:


Obama's White House won't have it. 

In a statement, the administration says it " strongly supports legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees" but that it " does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President's long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform."



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