The Cycle
updated 5/31/2013 6:49:31 PM ET 2013-05-31T22:49:31

Silicon Valley wants more skilled workers, but labor leaders worry about protecting jobs for Americans.

As the immigration bill makes its way in the Senate, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows that 54% of American voters support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; 12% say these immigrants can stay but not become citizens, and 29% say they should be deported. An overwhelming majority–71%–don’t think anything will be accomplished, in any case.

Two major liberal groups are at odds on the issue: Big Labor and Silicon Valley.

“We have seen throughout history that inviting more immigrants into the United States generally is good for the economy,” David Goodfriend, former deputy staff secretary to President Clinton said on Thursday’s show. Yet the labor movement says that “before a company should be allowed to go hire somebody from oversees we need to make that company show that they have really tried first to hire an American.”

One way to help ensure that the qualified job candidates gets the job is by focusing on the STEM Jobs Act, which would allow employers to hire foreign graduates of U.S. universities, and make it a part of the immigration package.

“We have to get more H1B visas for high skilled workers and as a result let’s bring in the dreamers and the 11 million undocumented workers. It is key to the big deal,” Goodfriend said.

Video: Silicon Valley, big labor clash over immigration reform

  1. Closed captioning of: Silicon Valley, big labor clash over immigration reform

    >>> if you think the immigration debate is entirely dems versus republicans, you're missing a key plot line that is shaping the legislation, snaking its way through the senate. two major liberal constituencies. some of the unions are nervous about losing jobs to low skilled immigrants. they need to corner the market on the world's most brilliant people. in a recent editorial, mark zuckerberg wrote, in a knowledge economy , the most talented people are those we educate and attract to our country. he has clicked like beside visas but will congress? let's bring in our good friend, david goodfriend . the form he deputy staff secretary to president clinton at fcc attorney general, it seem clear that welcoming more and more brilliant people to our shores and making them american citizens will have a massive positive impact on the economy.

    >> inviting more immigrants into the united states generally is good for the economy. you need look no further than the co-founder of google. he himself is an immigrant. he came here to maryland. his family did and he became a brilliant entrepreneur. that's one line of argument, that bringing more people in who are highly skilled creates jobs. the unions are saying, the labor movement is saying, yeah, but wait a second. if there are qualified american who should get those jobs, americans should get those job first before a company is allowed to go overseas and hire somebody from overseas. that's the debate.

    >> and those two sides of the coin are what people are trying to figure out. there is this fear that we're training foreign college students in these highly technical kinds of skill sets and then they leave and take their skills with them because we're not incentivizing them to stay. and then of course there's the fear that we are favoring these foreign trained workers over americans who need jobs. what about putting some stem training into the immigration package itself? instead of making stem training separate from immigration, make it part of the package.

    >> that's a great point, s.e. the fact of the matter is the s.t.e.m. training in the united states is really where this debate should start.

    >> right.

    >> let me give you some numbers, okay? the tech community in general produces over 1600 ,000,000 jobs a year that requires a bachelor's degree in science. 100,000-plus a year. colleges and universities produce 40,000 a year. that's the gap. that's the gap. if you can suddenly flick a switch and have more kids major in computer science and have more students qualified for those jobs, the issue would go away.

    >> sure.

    >> the issue would go away.

    >> well, it does strike me there are a lot of people in this economy who are having trouble getting jobs, but s.t.e.m. graduate, highly skilled american graduates, are not one of those groups.

    >> right.

    >> david, also dig into a little bit more what the unions are asking for here. they're not saying we don't want high-skilled immigrants. they're asking for more, making sure that there aren't u.s. workers who could fill those jobs, right?

    >> that's right. i mean, the labor movement should not be vilified here. they have a good point which is before a company should be allow allowed to go hire somebody from overseas, make that company show that they've really tried first to hire an american. and before you allow a company to hire somebody at a much lower wage, this is, i think, a key point for the labor movement , don't allow low wages from overseas to drive down wages here in the united states . now, the american worker, whoever he or she may be, is going to agree with that. i think the big issue happened, if you want my honest opinion, labor and the chamber of commerce , afl-cio, chamber of commerce , they cut a deal. that's what the gang of eight brought to the senate. and now what you see happening is the tech community kind of comes in from out of left field , as far as labor's concerned, and brings in something new and kind of blows up the deal that labor struck with chamber of commerce . so the labor movement is trying to get back into that pull position saying wait a second, we're the ones who struck the agreements with the chamber of commerce , don't blow up the deal.

    >> david, before we let you go, i don't really like the term "tech community." not to be a hater here. these are corporations, companies, right? they're coming in and have this new group, forward us, which zuckerberg and a bunch of other very wealthy individuals are behind and it's got a lot of rhetoric about immigration reform and what's good for the country, but most of the priorities seem to be pretty much traditional business lobbying. unpack for us where silicon valley fits in. are they different than usual corporate lobbying?

    >> i think they are in the following sense. this is a ticket to getting agreement on overall immigration reform . get h1b visas for high- skilled workers and bring in the dreamers, 11 million undocumented workers and everything else. it is key to the big deal .

    >> david goodfriend , thank you very much.

    >> thank you, folks.


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