Letter from Governor Schwarzenegger to U.S. Senate

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday sent the following letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to carefully consider the critical issues that affect the bursting economy in California while developing comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens and improves our borders and develops a practical way to deal with the undocumented residents who are already here. The debate will be clearly heating up in the next few days.

You can read the letter below:

June 4, 2007
The Honorable Harry Reid The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader Minority Leader
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Senator McConnell,
I appreciate the efforts by President Bush and a bipartisan working group of Senators to successfully develop comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens our borders and reforms a system that is so clearly broken. As this debate continues, I would like to raise some urgent concerns for California, especially the needs of innovation-based industries that are the backbone of our economic competitiveness.

California’s world-class higher education system and many of our leading industries benefit from foreign-born talent. The demand for skilled professionals with training in math, science and engineering far exceeds the supply of young people in the U.S. education system currently pursuing degrees in these areas. Improving the math and science education pipeline is one of our top priorities, but it will be years before we see the results of our efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that between 2004 and 2014 there will be nearly one million new jobs in math and computer sciences – the fastest growing professional sector in our economy. These highly-skilled workers are needed today to fill these jobs.

California’s knowledge-based businesses are the most innovative in the world and have fueled much of our nation’s economic growth over the past decades. From the birth of the personal computer, to today’s mobile technologies, these sectors have changed how we all live. To remain globally competitive, these industries must have the skilled workers they need and be able to draw from a pool of foreign talent. Although I support the bill’s effort to increase temporary H-1B visas it is critical that the annual level be based on the actual workforce needs of these sectors and not an arbitrary cap. The current caps of 65,000 for skilled professionals and 20,000 for holders of advanced degrees have proven to be far less than what is needed. Future levels for these visas must be based on the demands of the market or this policy will strangle these important industries, forcing them overseas. The H-1B program must also be enforced in a way that does not impose unnecessary, costly administrative burdens on law-abiding U.S. businesses. I am concerned that the current bill may make the H-1B program harder to administer, especially for smaller businesses, such as technology start-ups, and force these companies to consider moving critical functions, including product development, to facilities offshore.

My greatest concern, though, is with the proposal for a new points-based “green card” system designed to encourage the immigration of workers with training and skills in key areas. Replacing the current employer-based system, where companies can identify the specific skills needed and sponsor qualified immigrants, with an untested system run by the government threatens the very foundation of the program and must be amended. I strongly urge the Senate to retain an employment-based application process and consider authorizing a smaller points-based pilot program prior to any wider implementation.

I applaud your efforts to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform that secures our nation’s borders while attempting to meet the unique demands of a vibrant and changing world economy. I urge you to carefully consider the critical issues that affect the burgeoning innovation economy in California, as this legislation moves forward. Thank you for your consideration of this request and for your willingness to take on this complex and challenging issue.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
cc: The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
The Honorable Barbara Boxer
California Congressional Delegation