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Immigration Reform on the Agenda for High-Tech Companies Lobbying Congress

View of the New York City skyline as seen from Stevens Institute of TechnologyTechnology companies have taken steps on their own to promote immigration reform. They recently encouraged members of Congress to ease restrictions on immigration and pass reform legislation, including the DREAM Act, which came up for a vote in 2010 but did not pass. Tech companies in California have also begun to provide financial assistance to undocumented college students, helping them attend school, develop careers, and find legal immigration status.

Bills relating to technology, internet, and intellectual property issues have nearly monopolized the news of late. The primary purpose for the trip to Washington by the tech companies’ trade group, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, was to discuss the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and other similarly-controversial bills. Immigration reform is central to their agenda, however, since they want to draw talent from as broad a pool as possible. If students from around the world can come to the United States to study technology subjects, the group argues, and they can remain here after they graduate to start their careers, America will attract the “best and brightest” tech employees. This will preserve and improve America’s competitiveness on the world stage.

A group of tech companies, reportedly tired of waiting for reform from Congress, have started their own set of programs to help undocumented youths. Several companies have funded scholarships and supported organizations that provide assistance to undocumented students. One group, Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), offers scholarships and counseling to students who arrived illegally in the U.S. as children.

The tech companies are exploring ways to provide job experience and mentoring to undocumented students without violating federal employment laws. Employers can face both civil and criminal penalties for knowingly employing an undocumented immigrant. Unpaid internships with tech companies, while far from ideal for college students, could offer a way to connect students to employers without specifically violating immigration employment laws. Companies could later sponsor their interns for work visas.

A lack of federal legislation supporting undocumented students, who lack legal status through no volition of their own, makes helping these students find careers after graduation difficult. New laws allow in-state tuition for undocumented students in several states, including New York. Immigration reforms for students at the federal level, however, remains elusive.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act offered conditional permanent residence to qualifying undocumented immigrants who attend college or serve in the military. After two years of enrollment at a four-year college, or two years in the military, applicants would receive a six-year temporary residence. They could then qualify for permanent residence by completing a degree program or completing two more years of honorable military service. The bill has been around since 2001, but did not make it to a vote until 2010. It narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2010, but it failed to pass the Senate.

The New York and New Jersey immigration lawyers at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. help immigrants seeking visas to come to, or remain in, the United States. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys today, contact us online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Immigration Authorities Offer Temporary Protected Status, Employment Authorization to Syrians Due to Military Conflict, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2012
USCIS Announces Revisions to Form Used to Verify Employees’ Eligibility to Work, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 29, 2012
USCIS Launches Initiative to Promote Immigrant Entrepreneurship, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2012
Photo credit: ‘View of the New York City skyline as seen from Stevens Institute of Technology’ by Sharkface217.Sharkface217 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons