Posted Aug. 4, 2017 at 10:25 a.m.

Vivek Wadhwa, outspoken voice on immigration: Trump bill makes 'sense'

Published: 2017-08-04 10:25:48
Updated: 2017-08-04 10:25:48


Former Triangle tech entrepreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa, who is an immigrant from India, is no stranger to controversy. He's never been reluctant to speak out in calls for immigration reform, more international entrepreneurs, and more diversity in high tech, especially for women. But he now expects to take heat for speaking out in FAVOR of the President Trump-backed bill calling for changes in immigration policy.

"This article is surely going to create a backlash — because it goes against the common narrative in the media.," Vivek told colleagues via email early Friday. "But I felt obliged to speak my mind."

And, as usual, he does.

"I expected that the proposed legislation would be as outrageous as Trump's Muslim ban and that this interview would take me a step closer to a Trump tweet calling me a duffer," wrote Wadhwa, who has now written three books on a variety of issues and has taught at Duke University as well as several other institutions since leaving the tech business world in the Triangle.

"But the bill made sense to me."

Vivek Wadhwa

Wadhwa, who now lives in Silicon Valley, wrote a column for The Washington Post after being asked to do an interview with MSNBC. He also spoke out a day after the National Venture Capital Association and a host of VC industry firms as well as AOL founder Steve Case sent a letter to the Trump Administration calling for it to implement reforms designed to draw more international entrepreneurs to the U.S.

"[Immigration] needs to be revised substantially but is a step in the right direction," Wadhwa said in the email.

"U.S. immigration policy is badly in need of an overhaul, and the focus on bringing in people who add to economic growth and competitiveness is good for the country."

Critics have assailed the proposed legislation, including its requirement that immigrants learn to speak English.

Yet Wadhwa says the bill makes sense to him.

"Frankly, I don’t see why the U.S. needs diversity lotteries when it is already diverse, and why immigrants shouldn’t be required to speak English.," he declared.

"Centuries ago, it may not have been possible for a person in one country to learn the language of another, but now anyone anywhere can download an app and watch YouTube videos."

In a column for The Washington Post, Wadhaw said his opinions are based on a reading of the bill.

"[A]fter reading details of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (Raise Act), I can’t find a reason to be outraged," he wrote.

"The legislation surely needs to be improved, and the numbers of immigrants admitted increased. But it could be good for the country, because it gives preference to the job-creators and professionals who have for too long taken a back seat in the debates about comprehensive immigration reform."

Wadhwa pointed out that the bill "is supposedly based on the merit-based immigration systems of Canada and Australia and similar to what President George W. Bush had proposed in 2007 in a comprehensive immigration-reform bill that didn’t make it through the Senate. The same debates are likely break out again, with political leaders on both sides objecting to the exclusion of legal, low-skilled immigrants, who are crucial to the economies of states such as South Carolina."

Yet, he added:

We need both skilled and unskilled workers, as well as musicians and artists, and one way to resolve the issue may be to expand temporary-visa programs for low-skilled workers and to value soft skills more highly in the new system. Of critical importance also is to provide permanent residency to the more than 1 million undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Of these, 750,000 received work permits and deportation relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that President Barack Obama created. Their security in being able to remain is a human rights issue and, as I have previously written, concerns America’s very soul."

You can read the bill at:

http://static.politico.com/fd/af/3eebc635479892982f81bdfe3fa2/raise-act.pdf

And you can watch the MSNBC interview at:

http://snpy.tv/2f9dSck

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