By ANDREW MOORE
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
On Tuesday, Mayor Castro joined President Obama and other government and business leaders at the White House to show support for the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate.
On Friday morning, Mayor Castro joined Rackspace Chairman Graham Weston, and Zachry Holdings Executive Director of Public Policy A.J. Rodriguez at a press conference to urge Congress to pass the immigration legislation currently being considered.
The legislation has been led by a bipartisan group of senators called the “gang of eight” including Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Michael Bennet, D-Colo. and Bob Menedez, D-N.J.
The conference followed a discussion with San Antonio business leaders led by Mayor Castro at Zachry Holdings.
Rodriguez said the group came to a consensus and is “largely supportive of immigration reform.”
“We are honored to join the Mayor who has been a constant leader on immigration reform, in showing our company’s support for this issue,” Rodriguez said. “We believe that the U.S. economy will greatly benefit from an effective guest worker program, a clear expedited path to citizenship, and enhanced Visa opportunities for graduates.”
Mayor Castro urged Congress to support the legislation, which he saw as a historic opportunity to make much needed changes to the U.S. Immigration system.
“The legislation that is before the United States Senate, is the best chance that this country has had in a long time to fix its broken immigration system,” said Mayor Castro. “I’m confident that the business community throughout the United States, the business community in Texas, and our San Antonio business community sees the benefit of passing this legislation.”
The event’s three speakers supported several measures in the bill including increasing increase annual H1-B visas from 65,000 to 110,000, the increase of exempted advanced degree H1B visas from 20,000 to 25,000, and an increase in the ceiling of low tech visas for unskilled labor.
The group also supports increased border security and an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, though Mayor Castro thinks that the 13 year requirement is too long.
Speaking for the tech industry, Rackspace’s Weston said immigration reform is crucial to a growing tech economy in the U.S.
“Without immigration reform America is less competitive, and our businesses are less competitive,” Weston said. “This to me is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This comes down to whether America wants to have policies that support its business community.”
A national shortage of high tech employees exists in America’s high-tech industries, and immigration reform is needed so the high tech industry can fill these positions instead of outsourcing them, Weston said. Today, American companies outsource not because of cost reasons, but because of skill reasons, he said.
“Would we rather have a talented Indian move to America, work in our offices, and be part of this American team that exports to the world; or would we rather hire that person in India? It is much better for America for that talented person to move here,” Weston said.
But today, hiring any immigrant is a struggle for Rackspace Hosting. Every immigrant employee must go through a complex legal process and “lawyer up” with Rackspace to stay with the company. If Rackspace wants to buy a foreign company – and they are looking at several right now – they may be forced to leave that company overseas instead of bringing the new employees to the U.S. This result is less productive for both Rackspace and the American economy.
“To me, you cannot be pro business without being pro immigration reform,” Weston said.