Silicon Valley is a region where immigrants started or co-founded nearly half of venture-backed technology companies and “17 foreign workers [are] sought for every 1,000 people in the workforce.” So when a top House Republican — who most recently voted to move backwards on immigration reform efforts — arrives Wednesday for his fundraiser, some technology investors may not warm up to him.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will attend a roundtable discussion and fundraiser event hosted by TechNet, a bipartisan lobby group, where the suggested contribution for attendance ranges anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000. Not all investors are clamoring to attend Goodlatte’s fundraiser though. As Roll Call noted, Ron Conway, a top technology start-up company investor, expressed hesitation in attending the event because Goodlatte hasn’t made concrete plans to act on reform. Conway said, “I’m waiting to hear back from TechNet, that they can assure us that Bob Goodlatte can give us a tangible schedule … then it’s worth it for us to cut the big checks… Bob Goodlatte is a huge gatekeeper in this regard, and we need his help.”
Activists have yet to sway Goodlatte on immigration reform, but concerns by wealthy donors like Conway may be able to ratchet up pressure for Goodlatte to act. In 2013, seven technology companies spent about $13.8 million in just three months to ensure that the Senate immigration bill would expand temporary visas and reduce the wait time for green cards for technology workers. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “made calls, including to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)” when “the Senate Gang of Eight bill appeared to include aspects that would make it harder for tech firms to get visas,” according to Politico. Just last month, TechNet co-signed a letter along with 635 other businesses to ask House Republicans to act on their immigration principles document in order to “generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity.”
And given that the fundraiser will be held at the private residence of Safra Catz, President of the software service giant Oracle and a TechNet executive board member, it’s possible that she could draw Goodlatte into a discussion on immigration reform, or at least about the problems facing her company with regards to high-skilled visas. In 2011, the government denied 38 percent of Oracle’s work visa requests. After the Senate passed its immigration bill last year, Catz said, “Comprehensive changes to our outdated immigration system are important for the US economy to remain the global leader in innovation… With approval of this bill, the Senate is sending a powerful signal that America is open for business, strengthening our economy and providing new opportunities for our workers.”
High-skilled visas may not be Silicon Valley’s only motivation for lobbying on immigration reform. In East Palo Alto, 64.5 percent of the population is Latino, foreign-born immigrants comprise 41.2 percent of the city, and many of the U.S.-born children living in the area have at least one foreign-born parent. Some of those immigrants who did not arrive on H-1B visas help supply Silicon Valley with housekeepers, janitors, restaurant workers, and other low-paying services.