Following a lengthy period of time spent lobbying by high-tech businesses, the executive action issued by President Barack Obama last week was seen as a disappointment by those companies due to an inability to address key issues related to allotted green cards and the length of time foreign students can spend in the United States.

Obama’s action did address the potential deportations of up to 4.5 million who are undocumented, a move that would allow the parents of many individuals to stay in the country, while also allowing them to obtain work permits.

Falling Short On Key Immigration Points

The executive director of Compete America, Scott Corley said, “We didn’t ask for the moon to begin with. There’s just not an opportunity for the administration to deliver the moon for us, that’s a congressional action. But we asked for some terrestrial things, things within reach, and we didn’t see the detail we hoped for.” Corley’s organization represents a number of high-profile companies in the high-tech field such as Microsoft and Google.

Frustration Over Non-Distribution

These businesses are frustrated by the fact that more than 200,000 permanent resident green cards have been issued by Congress but never distributed. The high-tech industry, which felt that such requests were modest, has grown greatly over the past few decades due to the contributions of highly-skilled foreign-born workers.

Obama instead directed both the Secretaries for both State and Homeland Security to develop ideas over the next four months to make sure the allotted green cards get used. The reason that wasn’t included in last week’s action was because the time period had expired for issuing visas, though the Obama administration hasn’t ruled out addressing the issue in the future.

Student Expansion Up In The Air

In addition, increasing the span of time foreign students stay in the country was barely acknowledged. The only thing that administration officials said was that they would expand the program sometime in the future, offering no timetable on the plan.

Some Major Immigration Issues Addressed

The parts of the action that did address certain business-related issues were an expanded use of offering green cards to foreigners who are determined to possess exceptional abilities, unofficially, known as a “national interest waiver.”

Another part was in the creation of a provisional “parole” designation to startup founders, researchers and inventors, in order for them to remain in the United States.

Finally, the action will allow those with visas in high-tech areas to change jobs more easily as well as provide work authorization to their spouses. In the latter case, that option was not available before the action.

Hope Still Exists

Those business backers have not completely given up hope that things could change in a positive fashion, given the administration’s promises to take on some of the lingering issues over the next two years.

This issue was something that could have helped Obama politically, since Republicans in the past have been considered to be more friendly to business interests. His plan was universally denounced by Republicans, with many emphatically vowing to overturn it.

Some Are Happy With Immigration Reform Points

There are some areas of business who were pleased with the decision. The president of the National Venture Capital Association, Bobby Franklin, said that Obama, “has made it clear he understands the important role the entrepreneurial ecosystem plays in our economy.”

At the other end of the financial spectrum, Philip Schram, the executive vice president of the Buffalo Wings & Rings restaurant chain also endorsed the action, saying, “There is a constant need for entry-level wage earners to serve guests and prepare food. Immigration is a continuous way to get those entry-level workers.”

Worst-Case Scenario

If the issues cannot be addressed by Obama, the business community would be seeking a more comprehensive plan that would require the President to work with the incoming Republican majority in both Houses of Congress.

However, considering the longstanding differences between the two sides, the possibility of a quick conclusion seems doubtful.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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