The foundation of a successful business is not just a great idea, but good workers. You can have all the great ideas in the world but if you don't find the right people, you're out of luck.
Say you've got that great idea, and what you need to capitalize on it will be skilled workers, particularly those with strong knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math subjects. Let's say you need some who have graduate degrees to get this idea off the ground and build your business into something that will employ more people and boost the local economy.
So you look around for qualified, enthusiastic, smart people with training. You soon discover that nearly two-thirds of all graduate-level engineering students in the United States are foreign nationals. Most of our kids don't seek education in STEM fields.
You find some top students graduating from Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma and offer them jobs. They are excited at the opportunity and you are moving forward, living the American dream.
But you run into a problem. Our immigration system is broken and one of the many ways it is dysfunctional is that it essentially forces out too many foreign students educated in our nation's colleges and universities. They graduate and unless they jump through every hoop correctly (and so do their employers), there is no chance they can stay. And even if they do everything right, they still might end up forced to leave.
Instead of forging ahead with your great idea, you can't hire enough of the people with the skills you need to get off the ground.
This scenario isn't made up. As an immigration lawyer with more than 30 years' experience here in Oklahoma, this is the sort of economically damaging nonsense that our dysfunctional immigration policy leads to. Every day we shoot ourselves in the foot by sending these STEM students away when they would rather stay here, get a good job, and have a chance to contribute to our society and economy.
In recent years, the United States has slipped from the top to about 21st in the development of new technologies. It's easy to see why.
We need an immigration law that reflects the fact we're in the 21st century. We need policies that will help our country grow and flourish, rather than hand over the best and the brightest to other nations while U.S. employers helplessly watch the talent leaving our shores. That great idea might get developed to its full potential in the future, but with our backward immigration system, it's far more likely to happen somewhere else in the world.
Stump, of Oklahoma City, is president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.