Tech Leaders Urge Washington to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Brad Feld of Foundry Group quote

With the Senate set to vote on the comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill, tech leaders, politicians, companies, and organizations are holding a “virtual march on Washington” to urge senators to vote in immigration’s favor.

What Is the March?

A virtual marchThe March for Innovation (#iMarch) is the largest ever virtual demonstration on Washington and is designed to bombard senators with messages that are pro immigration reform. The March was organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy, Organizing for Action (OFA), and Republicans for Immigration Reform and is joined by tons of big-name tech leaders and politicians such as AOL co-founder Steve Case, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, to name a few. Don’t believe such a huge bipartisan effort could ever go down? Then imagine this: at the start of the March, President Obama retweeted Jeb Bush urging immigration reform and promoting the #iMarch hashtag:

Tastefully done, Obama.

Why Care About Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

The Senate passing CIR is one of the first steps toward (finally) passing immigration reform. The proposed reforms include increased border security, a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, and reforms to legal immigration designed to streamline the process. It is with this last point that the March is most concerned. Many fear that current immigration laws place unnecessary restrictions on skilled foreign workers and are thereby stunting companies’ ability to hire the cream of the crop of the world and grow to their potential. “Our immigration system should be fostering innovation – keeping and attracting the best and brightest here in the United States,” the March posted on its website.

28% of all companies founded in the United States in 2011 had immigrant foundersAnother fear driving the March is the United States being overtaken by countries with more progressive immigration laws and thereby losing its place as a global hub for innovation. “America can’t afford to fall behind in the race for global talent – a race we’re already losing. Already, other countries have incentivized innovation and encouraged startups while we make it difficult for talented immigrants to even apply for a visa,” reads the March’s website. Those supporting the March assert that CIR will make it easier for foreign workers to obtain work visas for the United States, and that American companies will therefore be able to broaden their candidate pool and hire only the most ingenuous workers from around the world.

Supporters of CIR also tout that immigration is good for the economy. Here are some tweetable points:

  • One in 10 workers privately employed in the United States is employed by a business owned by an immigrant <Tweet This>
  • Immigrants are more than two times as likely than the native born to start a business <Tweet This>
  • 28% of all companies founded in the US in 2011 had immigrant founders <Tweet This>
  • Immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $775 billion in revenue for the economy in 2011 <Tweet This>

Immigrants are a major driving force to the US economy and reform would only strengthen the economy.

The March for Innovation Live Streaming Website

The March launched to live stream its multi-channel approach. The top of the landing page sports a handy widget visitors can use to contact their state senators via Twitter, Facebook, or phone (preferably by midnight on March 23, when the March ends. That would be midnight of Eastern Standard Time).

Contact your senator

The page also includes a live stream of their “pass-the-baton” style event where top #iMarch supporters urge viewers to visit So far the event has included a Google+ Hangout with entrepreneurs at 10Gen, a Twitter Townhall with former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a Reddit AMA with José Antonio Vargas which is happening as I write this. Plenty more is to come; check out the schedule here.

The March’s Tumblr, titled “Why #iMarch,” also serves as a sort of live stream for the event. The blog shares individuals’ perspectives on why CIR needs to be passed: anyone can submit a post. Take, for example, a recruitment representative of the National Academy of Sciences who posted, “CIR is the largest potential overhaul to the US immigration laws in over 20 years – we need the Senate and the House to get it right this year so that immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators will continue to want to achieve critical acclaim — and create jobs — in our country.”

Screenshot of the #iMarch Tumblr

How the March is Getting Around

In addition to pushing updates to its own Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts, the March encourages its supporters to announce their solidarity through whichever channel they choose. As you can imagine this has resulted in a blitzkrieg on all areas of the Internet where senators are posting to Vine and media sites are giving the March plenty of attention, such as Steve Case posting on Mashable and Michael Bloomberg writing for The Huffington Post.

Convinced or at least interested in comprehensive immigration reform? Make sure you visit March for Innovation’s website and put your social media skills to good use.

Comic via Pando Daily

Lauren Mobertz

By Lauren Mobertz

Lauren is the former managing editor for DashBurst. One part geek, one part urban nomad, she is constantly scouting for the latest tech and world news. In the evenings you'll find Lauren running in strange places or attempting to dance salsa.

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