A few months ago, I held a forum where I heard from technology executives in Silicon Valley, our country’s center of technological innovation. They told me that they want to increase their workforce and help get the economy moving again, but some of the major barriers they have to growing their companies are visa laws that make it difficult for high-skilled foreigners to stay here to work.
Today, we have a system where America educates many of the brightest individuals from around the world, and then tells them to leave the country when many of them would rather start their own ventures or strengthen businesses right here in America. This hurts the economy for all of us, and it has to change.
Going forward, our visa policies must work for every sector of our economy, and across the income scale. In my meetings, leaders in agriculture, service industries and other fields have told me that current visa policies are hindering the growth of businesses looking to expand.
To address this economic need, we need carefully crafted programs that allow American businesses to hire needed foreign workers while protecting the labor and health-and-safety rights of all workers. We need to revise our current provisions for legal migration to help assure a legal workforce in cases where businesses can’t find Americans to fill their jobs. These changes will make our economy stronger and more prosperous at all levels.
"We Must Protect Families"
Community and faith leaders have also emphasized to me that we need reform because of how difficult the current laws can be on families, especially families of mixed legal status. Our immigration system is outdated where families are concerned, and we need to modernize and streamline the laws governing this process.
No one should have to wait in a line for years in order to reunite with a spouse or a young child. And we must protect the families of our men and women in the armed forces, some of whom volunteer to serve this country before they even become naturalized citizens. These individuals risk their lives to ensure the safety of all Americans. We have a duty to ensure that their families are treated with dignity when their soldiers return from combat.
I have had the honor of administering the oath of citizenship to active-duty personnel who had been serving our country long before I swore them in. These men and women are a reminder, as the President told them on the day of their swearing-in, that America is not just "a collection of rights," but also "a set of responsibilities...it depends on each of us doing our part."
So we all have to do our part to have a system that works. At the end of the day, when it comes to immigration, people need to be able to trust the system.
- Americans need to know that their government is committed to enforcing the law and securing the border—and that it takes this responsibility seriously.
- Law enforcement needs to have better legal tools and the necessary resources to deal with border-related and immigration-related crime.
- Businesses must be able find the workers they need here in America, rather than having to move overseas.
- Immigrants need to be able to plan their lives—they need to know that once we reform the laws, we’re going to have a system that works, and that the contours of our immigration laws will last. And they need to know that they will have as many responsibilities as they do rights.
As I said earlier, we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. This is ingrained in our national character and it has helped make America the great nation that it is.
But we must modernize our laws for the 21st century so that this vision can endure. This is a task that is critical, that is attainable, and that we are fully committed to fulfilling.