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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lack of Immigrants Could Hurt Growth

Politico: Illegal border crossings may grab the headlines, but the entrepreneurial spirit of foreign-born graduate students has become essential for job creation. Of the 50 top firms that received venture capital backing in the past three years, 46 percent include at least one immigrant founder, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Foundation for American Policy.

"It's clear that America gains a great deal when we're open to talent, wherever that talent is born," said the foundation's executive director, Stuart Anderson.

Each of the companies analyzed is privately held and valued at less than $1 billion, making them candidates to become publicly traded entities.

On average, the 23 companies started by an immigrant that were profiled in the report employ 150 workers.

Separately, 74 percent of all the companies surveyed have at least one immigrant working in management or product development.

Current visa laws restrict the potential for immigrants to both study in the United States and start tech-based firms.

Alex Mehr, a native of Iran who co-founded dating website Zoosk, struggled with an arduous multiyear journey to obtain the visas needed to start his San Francisco-based company.

He first had to hitchhike through Turkey to receive a student visa to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland. Later, he said he got his green card through a government lottery.

Of the 14.7 million immigrants who applied this year to the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program for permanent residency, just 50,000 were picked through the lottery, according to the State Department.

The visa situation for his co-founder became desperate enough that they considered moving their company to Canada, Mehr said.

"We could not actually sponsor ourselves through our own startup," he said.

Congress has shown some understanding of the visa dilemma, with the House voting 389-15 last month to remove the per-country caps on employment-based visas. The measure, though, still has to clear the Senate.

"It doesn't solve the problem, but it does help the situation," said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association.

Lawmakers have tried to couple reforms that could resolve the situation with less-popular steps to address illegal immigration, Heesen said.

"It's difficult to see something" getting passed this year, he said. "The problem, up to this point, is the inability of Congress to divorce illegal immigration from legal immigration."

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