Immigration reform is such a hot button political issue these days. Not a day goes by without some mention of the topic in conversations I have with friends, family, and colleagues. Most people that I talk to recognize the enormous contributions immigrants have made to our society. Others have expressed less positive views to me, especially on the thorny subjects of border security and the proposed legalization of undocumented individuals. I view my role as an immigration lawyer to be, first and foremost, that of an effective advocate for my clients. But each day I work in a system that is broken, that doesn't function the way it should for ordinary people, that doesn't subscribe to the values we hold as a nation. Therefore, I am also in a unique position to educate others about why this system needs to be fixed.
At Chamber of Commerce events that I go to I have plenty of opportunities to plug immigration reform. I must admit that it's a little bit like preaching to the choir, since most business owners are affected in one way or another by United States immigration law, whether because they rely on non-U.S. citizens to fill critical needs in their organizations, or because they are required by law to verify the employment eligibility of every new hire by properly completing Form I-9. As a member of two Chambers of Commerce, I feel like I am in the company of friends -- both as an immigration lawyer and a business owner.
So it was heartening to receive an e-mail this morning from the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a member, containing a link to a letter from the California Chamber of Commerce and various other chambers of commerce urging Congress to pass immigration reform. The letter underscored how important immigration is to the economic health of California, in terms of making enough H-1B visas available for businesses who cannot find enough qualified engineers, ensuring a temporary worker program capable of addressing the needs of California's agricultural industry, improving border security in a way that does not jeopardize trade with Mexico, and giving legal certainty to the status of the 11 million here without papers.
As the Chambers of Commerce have aptly noted, a more smoothly functioning immigration system will go a long way to prevent talent from moving off-shore, maintain economic competitiveness, and serve as a boon to California's recovering economy. And what is good for our state is good for the rest of the nation.
Timothy D. Widman is a San Jose Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman.