ICYMI- W.H. Seeks Tech’s Help on Immigration
W.H. seeks tech’s help on immigration
Posted March 7, 2013 4:39AM EST
SAN JOSE — The Democrats’ strategy for achieving immigration reform is coming into view: promise the tech industry what it wants in exchange for help lobbying for a comprehensive solution.
That message was on display yet again on Wednesday when Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank addressed a gathering of tech chief executives here.
support for granting green cards to foreign nationals who graduate with degrees in highly sought fields and creating an easier system to allow foreign entrepreneurs starting companies in the U.S. to live here, she said.
But none of that will happen unless corporate America, and the tech world in particular, let it be known they support more than just the parts of immigration reform that directly affect them.
“These are going to be linked,” Blank said at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s CEO Summit.
Blank’s comments come one day after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) delivered an identical exhortation to the Internet Association at that group’s Capitol Hill gathering.
“The idea of just pushing your own proposal is a very bad idea, and I’m delighted you understand that,” said Schumer, one of a bipartisan Gang of Eight working on a comprehensive bill.
In Silicon Valley, Blank found that, perhaps, some tech execs don’t understand that.
Synopsys Chairman Aart de Geus, for instance, groused to Blank that linking the tech industry’s talent struggles to issues such as a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. and border security could jeopardize all of it.
“I’ve seen this train before and I remember this was the kiss of death,” de Geus said. “If you don’t want to solve a problem, then attach it to a bigger problem. I would ask that you decouple the problems.”
But Blank insisted the outcome of the 2012 election — and the assertion of nascent political power by Hispanic voters — means the issues are inextricably linked.
“You can’t politically decouple the issues,” she said. “The groups that care about path to citizenship or border security will block skilled immigration.”
De Geus was unsatisfied, warning: “You are the management of the country. Don’t come back to me in two years and say, ‘Well, we tried.’”
Blank received a markedly warmer response to her announcement that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would open a temporary satellite office in Menlo Park in May. The city, between San Jose and San Francisco, is the epicenter of the venture capital industry. The department hopes to find a permanent location for the office by next year.
Tech executives were delighted by that development, which they believe will help regulators better understand up close how patent wars harm innovation.
“Once you are immersed in an environment like Silicon Valley, you start to see the struggles,” said Laura Mather, co-founder of Silver Tail Systems.
“I do know the pains around software patents.”
On cybersecurity, Blank said Commerce is so concerned about vulnerabilities that there are some topics which employees only discuss on paper, not computers. She would not elaborate.
“I’m sure we’re not the only ones to go back,” she said.
She invited the tech industry to be part of the process of creating an information-sharing framework.
“There is a huge problem and there is no technical solution except to disconnect from a system that is so powerful,” de Geus said referring to the cyber threat. He described the situation as being akin to “modern warfare” and one that must be addressed by lawmakers.
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story mischaracterized statements made by Aart de Geus, Synopsys co-chief executive. He was not advocating disconnecting from the Internet but observing the technical and political challenges that come with cyber attacks.