Replacing Rhetoric with Action: Time for Immigration Reform
Immigration is an issue I’m passionate about and one around which Remitly is built. The reality is that our existing immigration system is broken, but I’m looking forward to getting much more actively involved in reforming the policies around it. Now that the election is over, we can start talking about real policy — and use our customers’ stories to inspire action.
At Remitly, we are building the largest independent mobile remittance company in the U.S. We watch in awe as our generous customers from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, India, and the Philippines share their hard-earned money with their loved ones back home.
Remittance volumes are multiples larger than foreign aid sent every year. It is grassroots international aid at its finest, sending money to the countries that need it most. This kind of sharing and caring is inspirational — at times I marvel at how much more generous our customers are than me, and how much bigger the sacrifices they make are than any I have ever made, to live thousands of miles away from their loved ones to provide them with a better life.
It also motivates me to speak up about the need for immigration reform. Amidst all the stereotypes made around America’s immigrant populations, the true facts became clouded. More than 60 percent of businesses in the state I live in, Washington, have been founded by ambitious immigrants or their children, from Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser Company, and Zulily. In 2014, immigrants in Washington state earned more than $30 billion, contributing more than $8 billion in taxes.
That’s why I am committed to devoting significant time and attention to helping prioritize common sense immigration reform. What are some common sense ways to improve the immigration process? Here are a couple of suggestions I believe are critical:
Let’s give those dreamers a break. No more stories like my colleagues’ Lazaro Carrion and Shivaas Gulati (if you haven’t heard their stories on NPR, you can read it or listen to it here on Marketplace). Their journeys were arduous, especially Lazaro’s: from being an undocumented child brought to America by his parents to getting a full ride scholarship to a university in Washington. He was later hired as a marketing manager at Remitly and finally earned his citizenship. Much of his life was spent under the specter of deportation. To right the wrong of his illegal status, as a young man he set his life aside and returned to Mexico for four years, going to the back of the line to start all over again. Exasperating, and a huge waste of talent.
Expand and simplify the H1B visa process. Our ability to stay ahead of the game in today’s high-tech world requires a huge reservoir of talent, which we don’t have. In Seattle, we have thousands of open software engineering jobs. By making it difficult to recruit and retain these and other highly skilled technical professionals from other countries, we shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot. After his visa expired, Shivaas and I literally had to camp out at the American consulate office in New Delhi to convince officials not only that I needed him, but that our company that now employs more than 100 people in America needed him. Without that effort, Remitly simply wouldn’t be here today.
I could go on but you’ll be hearing more from me about this soon. We all agree our immigration process is impossibly complicated and grossly unfair to immigrants and American businesses.
Immigration reform will create a bigger pie for all of us and we’re just getting started in our work to move this important work forward.