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Immigration

Personal Stories Drive Immigration Reform

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Olga Ortiz from Click Bond meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) during the NAM's Annual Manufacturing Summit

We often talk about comprehensive immigration reform at the 30,000 foot level – discussing the positive macro effects that reform would have on our economy and society. But too often we fail to look for the stories that show how important immigration reform is on a personal level.

Click Bond, Inc. has one of those stories. A Carson City, NV based manufacturer specializing in aerospace technology, part of the Click Bond team was in Washington, D.C. this week for the Annual Manufacturing Summit to help carry the pro-manufacturing message to Capitol Hill. Like dozens of other manufacturers, they talked about immigration reform as a top priority – the unique part of their visit was that one team member is a real life example of an immigration success story.

Olga Ortiz has been a Click Bond employee for ten years, working as a machine operator solely responsible for her part of the product line. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1996 with her husband, Olga worked many hard jobs for several years – improving her English and putting in the hours of sweat equity to provide for her family, which soon grew to include two children. When she heard about an opportunity at Click Bond, she pressed a friend to recommend her and landed the job.

Olga’s pride in her work radiates when she talks about her job. She says that, “working for an important company, making important products, makes you important.” Her personal ethos, “whatever you’re doing, be the best at it,” is something that has clearly delivered much deserved success. She regards the Click Bond team as her second family – an appropriate association since they have helped her accomplish her goal in immigrating to the United States – building a better life for her family. She set out to do something special in this country and has more than cleared that bar.

But she doesn’t rest on her success. Olga gives back to her community everyday – working with Latino families to stress the importance of education and its role in lifting people to greater heights. She has become a worthy ambassador for Click Bond, Nevada and the United States.

I asked her why she does so much for her community and her simple answer has certainly inspired me to do more. “America is the best country – the best place to work and the best place to provide a better future for your kids. It’s given me a world of opportunity and I want to share it.”

For years, Click Bond has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their workforce, education and promoting manufacturing as a way to get ahead. Olga Ortiz is a picture perfect representation of that commitment.

From the 30,000 level, immigration reform just makes sense – but with people like Olga Ortiz as the face of the effort, it’s a no-brainer.

 

Immigration Reform Gains Momentum

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This week, the full Senate began to debate comprehensive immigration reform.  It will not be an easy endeavor, but we need to fix our broken immigration system. For too long, manufacturers in all sectors have struggled to hire the talent necessary to remain globally competitive. We have a chance to correct that problem in the form of S. 744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, but it is going to take leadership for Senators to vote in favor of a momentous change.

Earlier today, the NAM hosted a dual-city town hall discussion in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis, Minn. to focus attention on the importance of comprehensive immigration reform for manufacturers and what’s at stake for America in the weeks ahead. “Comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen our economic and national security.  And, it’s the right thing to do,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and Cargill Chairman and CEO Gregory Page said in a joint statement.  “Yet, the success of comprehensive reform is not ensured. If it fails, it may be years before we have another opportunity. As the Senate takes up its bill this week, right now is our best shot to draw attention to the issue.”

Representative Paul Ryan was a panelist at the event stating “immigration reform will help us get the labor force we need for economic growth.” He also said he believes the House can pass immigration reform legislation.

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) recently announced she will support the comprehensive immigration reform legislation and the NAM would like to commend her for her thoughtful decision. Gerry Letendre, CEO of Diamond Casting, a New Hampshire based small business, agrees and praised Senator Ayotte for recognizing that immigration reform is about innovation and job creation for Americans. “Immigration reform is an important step towards creating the jobs we need to be competitive” said Letendre. “I strongly support Senator Ayotte’s commitment to reform and job creation in New Hampshire.”

The NAM believe immigration reform can happen and manufacturers are determined to make it a reality.

Immigration Reform: Principles Matter

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Earlier today, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) hosted a dual town hall discussion on why the time for comprehensive immigration reform is now. Cosponsored by Cargill, Microsoft and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the event highlighted just how important the issue is to businesses and local communities across the country. That significance resounded from Cargill’s headquarters in Hopkins, Minnesota to the Washington, DC platform where House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) addressed the crowd.

Right now, the United States is educating foreign-born talent and then returning them to our competitors around the world. Our birthrates are not where they need to be to lock in our competitive advantage. Immigration reform will create jobs and drive economic growth, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin said in Washington. As Ryan noted, maintaining the status quo on immigration will get us nowhere fast. “When we’ve got baby boomers retiring, when we’ve got 10,000 people retiring every day as they will be for ten years coming, we’re going to need people,” he said. “Immigration helps us get the labor force that we need so that we can have the kind of growth we want.” Manufacturers in particular stand to benefit from having access to the qualified workers they need to keep manufacturing in the United States and thrive in a global marketplace.

For Ryan and other lawmakers, immigration reform is not simply an economically-motivated decision. It is the right thing to do. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons has been making the case for comprehensive immigration reform based on those same principles. It is something that town hall panelist and Brooklyn Park, Minnesota Mayor Jeffrey Lunde understands completely. Brooklyn Park is the most diverse city in the state and an indicator of future U.S. demographics. “It’s not stats to us – it’s people,” Lunde said from Cargill’s headquarters.

The NAM couldn’t agree more, especially when opponents question the ethics of immigration reform. Immigration reform is the ethical thing to do. Cargill Chairman and CEO Gregory Page put it best when took the stage. “What we see in America are 11 million people, the great majority of whom came here to work and to work hard, often in jobs that are difficult for employers like ourselves and others to fill. We see this as a moral question in the other direction,” he said. “How are we going to treat people who have contributed so much for so many years?”

A Commitment to Reform

By | Immigration, immigration reform | No Comments

A clear theme is emerging from the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) ongoing dual town hall discussion on comprehensive immigration reform: commitment to getting the job done. “This is not new,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, on the current situation in Congress. “I would argue that it’s better from the pro-immigration perspective than it’s ever been before.” Ryan underscored that immigration reform is not only a national security issue, it is an economic security issue, a point reiterated by both NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Under the current, broken system, the United States is sending the talent that manufacturers and other employers need to our competitors abroad. Comprehensive immigration reform will improve our competitiveness, Cargill Chairman and CEO Gregory Page said from the concurrent town hall meeting at the company’s headquarters in Hopkins, Minnesota. “Cargill’s worked on comprehensive immigration reform for nearly a decade,” Page said. Now it is time for Washington to finish the job.

 

House STEM Bill Key Solution for Manufacturers’ Skills Gap

By | Education and Training, Immigration | No Comments

Today, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced the “Supplying Knowledge-Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM (SKILLS) Visas Act’’ , which is another step on immigration reform efforts in the House of Representatives.  For years, the NAM has maintained that the Immigration system is broken and manufacturers need access to highly-skilled foreign born talent.

The existing immigration system  is hindering research, development, growth and job creation. The SKILLS Visas Act would raise the number of H-1B visas to 155,000 per year and also increase green cards for advanced degree holders in the STEM fields. In addition, it includes a STEM fund to provide for additional opportunities in the domestic STEM pipeline -a priority of utmost importance to NAM members. The NAM appreciates the work of the House Judiciary Committee, particularly Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Representative Issa .

We look forward to working then them in the coming weeks on this as well as other important legislation to modernize our immigration system.

Immigration Reform Clears First Hurdle

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The Senate Judiciary Committee completed work on S. 744 last night, which sets up consideration by the full Senate in June. The vote was 13-5 and demonstrated bi-partisan support for the framework. Prior to passage, the committee adopted an amendment negotiated by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which would address critical aspects of the H-1B visa provisions of the bill.

The NAM joined the U.S. Chamber in sending a letter of support for Senator Hatch’s amendment to all members of the Judiciary Committee. In June, the Senate will take up a comprehensive immigration package that contains the following: increased access to high-skilled talent; increased legal access to lower-skilled workers; a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented; and an enhanced verification program with protections for employers acting in good faith. The NAM is anticipating vigorous debate on this legislation over the summer in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

 

STEM Fund Creation Approved for Immigration Reform Bill

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The NAM is pleased that Senator Hatch’s amendment just passed by voice vote.  The amendment creates a green card fee whose funds will go to the states to focus on STEM education. This concept is also included in the Hatch Klobuchar I-Squared bill also supported by manufacturers. Investing in domestic STEM education is necessary for the success of US manufacturers. We need to improve the domestic pipeline of talent in the STEM fields to secure the next generation of scientists and researchers. We appreciate Senator Hatch and the committees’ strong support for this effort.

NAM Doubles Down on High-Skilled Immigration Reform

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As the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to work through debate on S. 744, The NAM, leading a coalition of national and state organizations, sent a letter to Capitol Hill articulating the strong support for provisions in the bill that would deliver significant reforms to the high-skilled immigration program as part of a comprehensive solution.

As the letter notes, “Skilled immigration reform is long overdue. The U.S. economy is struggling to reach its full potential in large part because the demand for highly skilled professionals exceeds the supply; a knowledge gap which will only continue to grow… However, as with any ambitious legislation that would create a new set of requirements for U.S. employers, it is essential to closely examine the new mechanisms proposed for the H-1b and L-1 visa programs and ensure that unintended consequences are anticipated and avoided. Essentially, it should enable U.S. employers to use these visa programs to complement and grow their permanent U.S. workforce, maximizing business and investment activity in the U.S.”

While the NAM and the other organizations are pleased with the initial framework of the bill and have lauded the Gang of 8’s effort to lead on such a critical issue, we are aware that it is not perfect and that improvements are needed. A few specific areas of interest were pointed out, including recruitment, non-displacement and the H-1b Cap Escalator to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform does not interfere with necessary business decisions and that new laws will keep up with the economic times and demand.

Manufacturers are committed to seeing immigration reform through and look forward to working with policymakers to ensure that this landmark bill accomplishes what all interested parties have set out to do – implement a comprehensive solution that provides the workforce manufacturers in the U.S. need to compete and succeed.

Caterpillar Tells Senate that Immigration Reform is Needed Now

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Comprehensive immigration reform and STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) are critical to manufacturers – to address a skills gap that has left 600,000 jobs vacant and to build a 21st century workforce that manufacturers in the U.S. need to compete and succeed in the global economy.

Caterpillar is doing its part in spreading that message, sending its Chief Technology Officer, Gwenne Henricks, to Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Ms. Henricks told the committee that our education system simply isn’t producing the necessary pipeline of STEM graduates manufacturers need to meet workforce needs – and a solution through immigration reform is badly needed.

“At Caterpillar, we know our people are our greatest asset. We employ more than 10,000 engineers, technologists and scientists worldwide who are dedicated to developing technologies that reshape the process of using, managing and owning heavy equipment. Last year, we filed for nearly 1,100 patents and spent approximately $2.4 billion on research and development. We need a solution that will address these issues and help us grow a sustainable pipeline of highly skilled workers to meet our growing needs while preserving the environment for future generations through innovation and collaboration,” said Henricks.

Getting comprehensive immigration reform enacted into law won’t be easy – if it was, it would already be done. The way we’re going to get the ball across the goal line here is by making sure that policymakers truly understand how essential reform is to the health of manufacturing and our economy as a whole. Big kudos to Caterpillar for taking such a leadership role in getting that message out there.

H1-B Visas – Blink and You’ll Miss Them

By | Immigration | 2 Comments

On April 5, five days after the application process opened, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced they had received enough applications to exhaust the number of H1-B visas for FY 2014. As we noted last week, this means that any company that has not already applied for a visa to hire a highly-skilled foreign-born candidate will not be able to hire that talented individual this year. In addition, because the number of applications exceeded the limit, anyone who applied before April 5 will be subject to a random lottery for the available visas. This is a crisis. The economy is barely growing and the US will fall behind unless companies are allowed to hire and retain employees in the US under an expanded visa program.

Increased H1-B numbers and a reformed green card system will assist in growing the economy and creating jobs for Americans. Legislation, such as the bi-partisan “I-Squared Act,” introduced by Senators Hatch, Klobuchar, Rubio and Coons, positively addresses these problems by increasing the H1-B cap and reshaping the green card system. The NAM sent a letter in support of this legislation and also submitted a letter with nearly 60 companies and organizations that see the need for reform.  The current system creates an uncertainty that is not functional for employers and will drive job creation out of the US. This mad dash to apply for visas needs to end and in its place should be a process that allows for thoughtful and dependable workforce planning.  Congress should look to the I-Squared bill when drafting a comprehensive reform package.